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Undercover Police Work & Internet Stings

Interviewer: Let’s talk about something about that you mentioned earlier: prostitution stings, like the ones that people see on TV, where an officer will disguise themselves as a prostitute. Is that still in existence? Does that still happen?

Eric Sachs: That still happens; it really does. Law enforcement will take out an advertisement, usually on the Internet, or to be in the newspapers. They take it out on the Internet and the escort services somewhere and it’s an advertisement that, from the defense’s point of view, we just thought we were getting an escort to go out on a date or go out to dinner or something that had nothing sexual with it. The advertisement that’s usually out there cannot be for sex, but it will be something that the government claims is well known to people that is the kind of advertisement where you’re looking for sex even though sex is not mentioned. Then there’s a meeting that’s setup and they actually have video setup in the meeting place, whether it be a motel or a hotel or somewhere else, and there are almost always other police officers hiding in the room, waiting for the unsuspecting person to come in and agree.

In New York, you don’t actually have to have sex. Agreeing to pay for sex is the big thing. Consenting adults are okay, but if you’re charging for that and you agree to pay for it or you ask for it and you agree to pay for it, that’s the crime and believe it or not, the police will come out of the closets and they will arrest you right then and there on the spot and they have the video of it. They really do spend thousands of dollars on these stings to get Johns. They do it reversely, too; there are undercover police officers that act as the Johns to go arrest the prostitutes.

They’re not always standing on the street corners. In the old days, you used to drive down the street in the cities and they’d be on the street corners – the “street walkers,” as they were. They’re not always out there now. Nowadays it’s access to the Internet, telephone calls, and meeting places.

Interviewer: The ones I’ve seen on TV are the ones that have been like the movies where you get some sort of female officer. Are there any cases or have you seen any cases where it’s arguable as to whether the guy actually offered to pay money for sex or was it something where the police officer was trying to get the guy to admit to that or trying to say that?

Eric Sachs: Absolutely, I have one of those cases right now where there’s a video, and there are the two individuals speaking, but there’s no word of sex. The prosecutor and the government turn it around and the police say, “Well, we all know what he meant,” but we’re saying, according to the law, you may think you know what he means, but he didn’t ask for sex. He’s not asking for any type of sex. Whether he’s asking for a massage or a rub down or to get beat up or to get dominated, none of those are against the law. I’m actually handling exactly that case right now where my client agreed to pay somebody money for something, but it wasn’t for sex. No money actually changed hands and my client was arrested, and we’re fighting that case right now.

There are similar cases like that here that have been dismissed and people are found not guilty and we expect to have the exact same outcome in our case.

Interviewer: Does the person, if they meet but don’t discuss any sort of sexual activity, automatically become a suspect? Does that make that guy guilty? Well, it’s written on the Internet, but there’s no sexual anything involved with that or any mention of sex.

Eric Sachs: It doesn’t. You have to go a little bit further, and that’s what makes it so scary for a lot of people. If you go out to the Internet and you look under escorts and it’s talking about something for a massage, how would the average person know that it wasn’t for a massage? That’s what our indication is now – there are some people who are more savvy than others, but if there’s an advertisement out there that says massage and you show up for a massage and you pay for a massage and you get a massage, that’s not illegal. If you advertise for a massage and somebody answers that ad, and then they show up at this motel room and they give you or the further conversation takes place how much money this massage is going to be and what the massage is going to compose and if it’s involving sex, that’s the problem. It’s not the massage or answering the ad; it’s the actual contracting, so to speak, for some sort of sexual gratification.

Interviewer: However, there’s still an arrest made, correct?

Eric Sachs: Correct, exactly that. Sometimes they’ll make an arrest and it turns out, “Oops.” From our side, the damage is done, because you’ve been arrested and even though the case could be dismissed, depending on what publicity there may or may not be, it could absolutely ruin somebody’s life. Some poor person goes in to get a massage, gets arrested, gets it dismissed, but people actually think that he wasn’t doing it in the first place.

I think there are still people around that say, “Well, they probably did it anyway.” I don’t know if they’ll ever recover from that, and that’s part of the problem with all these bad arrests and why we go back to telling people you need to hire a lawyer who knows what’s going on, because that all has to be dealt with. If it’s not dealt with properly, you could be in a whole lot of trouble.

Interviewer: What about cases where maybe someone of high standing receives some sort of service like a massage? Have you ever seen cases where they receive a massage, but then that massage person claims or tries to pin that person by saying, “That person was trying to give me money for sex,” and as a result, that person gets labeled as a John or something like that? Have you deal with cases like that with high profile clients? Is that similar in the way you handle it?

Eric Sachs: Yeah, we’ve had it where there’s not always a motive. However there’s usually a motive behind that as well as any other case. When somebody claims you did something to them, it’s usually because you either did that or they’re mad at you for something.

Interviewer: Sure, or they want to get some money.

Eric Sachs: Ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend come to mind, and we have here going on a teacher who was accused of having sex with an underage student. Did he have sex or not or was the teacher ratted out by another student who had a crush on the teacher? Did the teacher actually have sex? Is this the ex-girlfriend who was basically dumped and the boyfriend moves on to somebody else so now it goes to the police to say, “He raped me”? We do see those, and it doesn’t have to just be prostitution cases. We’ve handled many rape cases that came just from that. Even so far as not just the ex-girlfriend, but the ex-girlfriend telling the child to say that the guy had had sex with her or touched her, all as a revenge factor.

It’s really dangerous. Everybody has to kind of be careful as to what they do and whom they do it with.

By Eric Sachs