WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - Wausau police have made four more arrests in an ongoing prostitution investigation. Lieutenant Matthew Barnes says the arrest of a woman soliciting for sexual services with online ads a couple of weeks ago was not the end of the investigation. “A couple of weeks ago, we arrested a young lady who was for prostitution. She was serving as the prostitute. In our most recent investigation, we targeted so-called Johns, or the customers, where we utilized police officers acting as the prostitutes, and we put our own advertisements online, and we arrested individuals responding to those ads.”
The men were arrested last Friday, January 17th, but details were just released.
One of the four men arrested is a UW Stevens Point faculty member in the College of Natural Resources. He is 33-year-old Joshua M. Shields, and is likely to be charged with solicitation. Also arrested were 37-year-old Peter M. Gomez, 58-year-old Jeffrey Burgoyne, and 27-year-old Brandon Crum. All four are expected in Marathon County court next week.
Barnes says they’re not sure if prostitution has become a bigger problem, or if an existing problem is just coming to the surface. “It’s unknown to us whether there has always been a problem of this magnitude, because it was hidden. We always knew of an occasional case here and there, with prostitution occurring in Wausau, however, with the websites that now allow prostitutes for a few dollars a day to post an ad and provide their contact information, it’s become more apparent to us, and it stands out a lot more as a problem in the community.”
The social media site Backpage.com commonly has ads for women offering companionship, but Barnes says charging for the physical companionship is still illegal. “A sex act does not have to occur in order for us to arrest for prostitution or for solicitation of prostitution. An agreement between the parties, and the agreement would be for the exchange of sexual acts for proceeds or money, is all that’s required of us to make our case.”
Wausau police are continuing to investigate prostitution advertisers, customers, and complaints they’ve received from citizens that may involve prostitution.