JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - An investigation by federal and local authorities have resulted in the arrests of 13 people in a suspected sex trafficking case in the region.
According to a probable cause affidavit, Michael Jordan, 35, and Curtis Marks, 30, were arrested for promoting prostitution during “Operation S.U.I.T (Stopping Underage Illegal Trafficking)” last week.
In Jordan’s affidavit, police were conducting surveillance at a local hotel when they saw a suspicious car drop off a female passenger who was subsequently arrested and charged with prostitution.
Officers reportedly observed a Lincoln Towncar, driven by Jordan, pull into the parking lot of the Haven Hotel around 9:45 p.m. Thursday and drop off a female passenger.
The car then traveled to Casey’s General Store on South Caraway, where police said Jordan pulled next to a gas pump then sat in his car for approximately 10 minutes before going into the store.
After pumping fuel, the report stated Jordan got back into his car and sat for another 10 minutes before driving slowly back to the hotel parking lot and stopped in a nearby parking lot.
When police confronted Jordan, they could smell marijuana coming from Jordan and the car. Jordan was asked to step out of the car, and JPD searched the car finding 20 fake $100 bills with pink Chinese writing on the face side, 28 fake $100 bills with “fashion prop money,” in the top left corner, and 20 fake $50 bills with pink Chinese writing on the face side.
Police also found 30 ecstasy pills in various shapes and sizes, and multiple bags of marijuana.
Jordan was charged with promoting prostitution in the third-degree, forgery in the first-degree, and multiple drug charges.
In Marks’ affidavit, it stated that while officers were conducting an undercover operation into human trafficking, a black male later identified as Curtis Marks came into a room, demanded to know where a female was, who had been arrested a short time earlier for prostitution.
Marks said something about “firing shots into the hotel room,” if the girl wasn’t turned over to him.
After a short struggle, Marks was arrested and charged with promoting prostitution in the third-degree and falsely communicating a terrorist threat.
On Friday Jonesboro Police Department posted on their Facebook page that the Jonesboro police and Homeland Security Investigations worked on an investigation called “Operation S.U.I.T (Stopping Underage Illegal Trafficking)”.
Officials said the investigation helped identify underage and adult victims of sex trafficking in Northeast Arkansas.
“The operation was in support of ’2020 Human Trafficking’ month to combat this growing problem in our community. This enforcement action resulted in 13 arrests and six victims being rescued,” Jonesboro police said in the post.
In addition to Homeland Security and JPD, the Craighead County Sheriff’s Department, FBI, Arkansas State University police, Hope Found, Juvenile Court, and Probation, Trumann police, the local hotel industry, and the Craighead County Health Department worked on the case.
“(They) all joined forces in executing this highly successful operation resulting in identifying more than 25 victims in our area within the past month,” officials said.
Officials did not release the names of the people arrested in the case due to victim safety concerns.
Surveillance units, according to an initial incident report released Monday, staked out the 2600-block of Phillips Drive.
According to the incident report, officers arrested the man on suspicion of promoting prostitution, possession of a Schedule I/II controlled substance greater than 2 grams but less than 28 grams, possession of drug paraphernalia, and first-degree forgery.
Jonesboro police announced in December that an agent with Homeland Security has been added to the department to help educate officers and local residents about the issue of sex trafficking.
Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said at the time that the addition, along with work of the Internet Crimes Against Children Division at the department, shows a proactive approach on the issue.
“There are victims out there that we’d like to get identified, get them out of this and then get them the help they’re going to need instead of being caught up in this ongoing cycle,” Elliott said.
Region 8 News will have more details on the investigation as they become available.