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11 men, 1 woman arrested amid human trafficking investigation in Rockford

April 10, 2017 ·  By Kristen Zambo for www.rrstar.com

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ROCKFORD — Eleven men have been arrested for prostitution-related offenses after Rockford police began investigating reports of human trafficking.

Investigators for the past several weeks received complaints about prostitution occurring in the area of Seventh Street and Broadway, as well as at several undisclosed hotels in Rockford, police said.

Police and the Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s Office conducted a human trafficking detail on Friday that resulted in the arrests of 11 men, police said today.

Those charged are: Ryan Beasley, 32, of Rockford; Nicholas Cina, 42, of Belvidere; Derrick Clark, 34, of Rockford; Nazareo Deleon-Bolanos, 33, of Rockford; John Fenicle, 63, of Roscoe; Clarence Greer, 46, of Rockford; Stephen Mains, 51, of Garden Prairie; Pedro Marquez-Jimenez, 18, of Machesney Park; Don McDonald, 22, of Rockford; George Northington, 68, of Rockford and Daniel Rodriquez, 34, of Loves Park.

None of the men is charged with human trafficking offenses. All 11 are charged with solicitation of a sex act. Clark and Mains also are charged with possession of marijuana, according to police.

“The sex trade is alive and well in this town,” Rockford police Lt. Eric Bruno said. “It’s a subculture.”

Police say Brittany Marquez, 27, of Rockford, was found with a 17-year-old girl. Marquez was charged with involuntary sexual servitude of a minor. That is a newer criminal charge, Bruno said. It is used instead of a prostitution charge because police allege Marquez was facilitating the prostitution between men and the teen.

Marquez remained in the Winnebago County Jail today, booking records show.

Bruno said police believe Marquez served as the pimp or madam. Investigators, he said, increasingly encounter women in that role.

“They serve as sort of like a mother figure to these younger girls who are getting wrapped up in this (prostitution),” he said. “There’s always that male figure around to maintain control. (But the woman) is more of a liaison. (She) shows them the ropes, so to speak. Instead of using tactics that are harsher, (a woman has) a little softer approach.”

While he couldn’t comment on whether the teen had been physically abused, “it’s horrible to be put in that position of having sex for money.”

The teen was taken into protective custody. Bruno said he didn’t know if she is from Winnebago County or if she was brought to the Rockford area.

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department received a tip about the girl, Bruno said, leading to what Sheriff Gary Caruana described as a joint Sheriff’s Department and Rockford Police Department effort to help her.

Bruno said the girl is being treated as a victim, a shift in focus from the days when law enforcement conducted separate stings on men and prostitutes.

A couple of years ago, legislators “decided we shouldn’t have felony prostitution. The incentive to stop — that’s been lifted. But I think that’s probably a good thing. Treat it like a health issue or social problem rather than a criminal issue,” Bruno said.

“What we’re realizing now is these women that are doing it … they really don’t want to do it,” Bruno said. But they engage in prostitution because they are addicted to drugs, have mental health issues, are coerced into it or some combination of those factors, he added.

Investigators are trying to take “a more holistic, treatment look at it,” said Caruana, a Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation board member. “We’re trying to work them out of the system through a strategic approach.”

Caseworkers from RAASE assisted in the case, according to police.

Bruno said he couldn’t reveal which hotels were used because staff there provided anonymous tips to investigators. Investigators do monitor the internet chatrooms used by men who solicit sex.

“So we know where the activity is because they put it out there,” he said.

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