Four women were arrested and charged with prostitution this week after Howard County detectives responded to online ads and posed as potential customers or "johns," according a Howard County Police news release.
Police said detectives used the website Backpage.com to seek out ads for women offering various services. Women who met undercover officers at an undisclosed hotel on June 24 and offered sex in exchange for money were taken into custody, police said.
Those arrested and charged with prostitution include: Ciara Miller, 21, of Stony Point, N.Y., Marie Gaffney, 22, of Atlantic City, N.J., Alexandra Molchanova, 22, of Atlantic City, N.J. and Charlene Darchel Williams, 29 of Harrisburg, Pa.
Police also charged one man, Valdez Zakye Ruffin, 20, of Stony Point, N.Y., with drug possession after he was discovered waiting for one of the women in a nearby car.
According to the release, the goal of the sting was to "send a message that prostitution will not be tolerated in Howard County, and to seek out any possible victims of sex trafficking."
"We know that many women are brought from state to state for the purposes of prostitution," said Police Chief William McMahon. "If we can bring some of these women into our custody, maybe we have a chance of helping them break free from this lifestyle and the men who often control it."
Police said they intend to continue undercover operations to deter prostitution and sex trafficking within the county.