Crime

Six men arrested in Bellingham prostitution sting

Six men were arrested in a prostitution sting in Bellingham this month, police announced Tuesday, June 16.

Twice last week undercover officers posted an ad on Backpage.com, a risqué classified ad site, with a phone number, a photo of a woman’s backside, and a short blurb from a 34-year-old woman “looking to please,” according to the Bellingham Police Department.

Within about 30 seconds, a female undercover officer’s phone started ringing, said Lt. Mike Johnston. And it kept ringing and ringing.

“She had so many people calling that she couldn’t even field them all,” Johnston said. “She forgot to turn the phone off and it kept binging through the night.”

All six of the men arrested spoke over the phone with a woman — a cop posing as a prostitute — and haggled over prices and sex acts, Johnston said. One offered a hundred dollars. Another said he’d give her $40 and a bag of weed.

Police were overwhelmed and, at times, two or three men cruised through the parking lot of a Lakeway Drive hotel, waiting to go to the woman’s room. One at a time, the men were asked to come up. The “prostitute” would then ask the man what he wanted to do. Once the man made it clear he was willing to pay for a sex act, police would enter the room to arrest him.

The following men were arrested:

▪  Michael Anthony Campion, 48, of Bellingham;

▪  Neil Gordon Freeman, 59, of Bellingham;

▪  Caelyn Alexander Hamner, 36, of La Conner;

▪  Farook Mohammed, 54, of Bellingham;

▪  Dalton Coy Prudence, 20, of Bellingham;

▪  Daniel Lee Thorene, 72, of Bellingham.

All six face a charge of patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor. None have a felony history in the state of Washington.

Campion, a former real estate agent who manages dozens of properties around Whatcom County, did not return a reporter’s phone call to a business number Tuesday, June 16. A woman who answered the phone at Freeman’s home said he wouldn’t want to talk with a reporter. None of the other men had listed numbers.

At least one other man backed out at the last minute, Johnston said, and several others remain under investigation.

Police said the goal of a sting like this is to protect women who have fallen victim to sex trafficking.

“This is not a victimless crime,” Johnston said. “It’s a real problem in our community.”

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Dispatcher blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog and follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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