Police on saturated patrol raided a house of prostitution at about 10:30 p.m. Friday in Frederiksted. Three women were taken into custody after agreeing to exchange sex for money, according to the V.I. Police Department.
Carolina Rodriguez, 28, Claudia Leonardo, 44, and Mary Rodriguez, 29, were arrested and charged with soliciting sexual favors in exchange for money. The women were held on a $500 bail each and posted bail pending their advise of rights hearing.
The raid was organized by St. Croix Police Chief Christopher Howell and occurred at the La Orquidia Bar on Queen Street in Frederiksted. Chief Howell said the raid was part of the continuing effort by police to give relief to the residents of Frederiksted.
Howell said the raid was carefully planned and required prior clearance from Police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis Jr. before officers could proceed with the sting. One attorney from the Attorney General’s office and agents from DEA/HIDTA also participated in the raid.
Undercover officers entered the establishment, were solicited by the prostitutes, and taken to small rooms in the rear of the establishment. A pre-determined signal alerted waiting officers to move in. Officers forcibly entered the rooms and arrested the women. At least one of the women was partially dressed when officers forced entry.
In April, Howell led saturated patrol officers and law enforcement from Fire, Health and Licensing on an inspection of several Queen Street businesses prompted by complaints from the community of loitering, loud music, firearms being discharged, public urination and other quality of life issues. Health and Fire Services shut down six businesses and cited others for various violations.
Howell said officers will continue to keep the pressure on businesses that run illegal operations.
“This may be one of the few jurisdictions under the United States flag where prostitution houses can operate so openly," he said. "This illegal activity spawns various types of crimes, including the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, encouraging human trafficking and creating an underground economy that does not benefit the treasury of the Virgin Islands government.”
Howell commended the work of the undercover officers, Special Operations Bureau and K9 officers for a successful and safe operation.
“It went like clockwork,” Howell added. “Just as the illegal sale of drugs comes down to supply and demand, so does prostitution. This being the case, the VIPD will not only target those who provide this illegal service, but also those who are willing to pay for it.”