Child sex sting suspects appear in court; Richland man arrested for child sex trafficking

Eighteen child sex sting suspects appeared in court on Thursday.

TRI-CITIES, Wash. – On Monday, police arrested 26-men during a sting operation for attempting to have sex with young boys and girls. Now Richland police arrested a man on Wednesday for attempted child sex trafficking, with help from the 16-year-old survivor.

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Court appearances continued Thursday for the 18 remaining men arrested in the child sex trafficking sting, as one man after another went before the judge, facing allegations of attempting sexually assault children, with several men offering to pay for the sexual acts.

Police said this kind of sex crime in our area isn't new.

Richland Sex Crime Detective Athena Clark said this massive sting is evidence that there's a market in the Tri-Cities for sex trafficking.

RELATED STORY: Warning Signs of Human Trafficking

"When people sell drugs, once the drug leaves the seller's hand and goes to the buyer, it’s gone, but with sex trafficking victims or survivors, they can be used over and over, and over again,” Clark explained. “They can be resold from one person to the next, to the next."

Richland Police arrested a 51-year-old John Pine, better known as John Abrams on Wednesday for two counts of attempted child sex trafficking and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in criminal sexual activity.

"Our survivor was sexually assaulted by Mr. Abrams and after the sexual assault occurred he continued to engage her online leading her in the direction of sexually exploiting her and putting her into the sex trade where he could financially profit from this," Clark said.

Clark said the victim told police that on February 22, 2017 she met Abrams online. They communicated and arranged to meet in a local park. Police said Abrams sexually assaulted her in the park. Abrams and the victim continued to communicate using several different apps.

While detectives where talking to the victim, Abrams continued to talk to her and he asked if he could pick her up from school to engage in sexual activities. Clark said detectives saw in real time Abram’s attempts to engage the victim in sexual activity.

Police said they arranged to meet at a park. Abrams showed up to the location less than 1,000 ft. away from a public school and was arrested on local charges.

The victim showed detectives the communications where Abrams continued to make sexual advances. Police said Abram's conversations show how he planned to facilitate the victim’s participation in the sex trade.

"He was willing to essentially train her, and teach her certain aspects to make her profit more,” Clark said. “In turn, allowing him to profit more and find clients for her, things of that nature."

Abrams was indicted in Federal District Court on Tuesday, and a warrant for his arrest was issued. He was taken into custody by Det. Clark and KPD Det. Rick Runge on Wednesday.

Abrams made his first court appearance Thursday in the U.S. Federal Court. Action News was not allowed to bring cameras inside, but he is a white man, medium build, with dark brown and gray hair.

Abrams will appear in court again Friday for his detention hearing.

Det. Clark said sex trafficking is on the rise throughout the Tri-Cities.

"This is a crime that hides in plain sight,” she said. “Our victims are our next-door neighbors, or suspects are our next-door neighbors, they are people heavily involved in the community.”

She believes education is key to combating this crime.

"Without education the community isn’t aware of what's going on, law enforcement isn’t aware of what’s going on, so we have to communicate with the public because they are our eyes and ears," Clark said.

Clark said the fight against sex trafficking is underway, and law enforcement will continue to try to stop it.

Police are deploying their Internet Crimes Against Children task force as well as working with human trafficking survivors to try to prevent more people form becoming victims.

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