The traditional smoke cloud rises over Civic Center Park at 4:20 p.m. in downtown Denver on April 20, 2016. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

Feds conduct prostitution sting during Denver 4/20 week; 35 arrests

Five children rescued, 35 adults arrested in sting

Big events are known to draw prostitutes to towns, and the FBI says last week’s marijuana celebration in Denver was no different.

The FBI coordinated with 19 state and local law enforcement agencies to crack down on prostitutes and escorts and those who bring them to town or pay for their services, according to an FBI news release.

Five children were rescued from people trying to sell them for sex, including a 15-year-old brought to Colorado from California specifically for “420 Week,” the FBI said.

In addition, nine adults were arrested on trafficking charges, and 26 adults were busted for prostitution. Other adults who were being forced into prostitution were offered food, shelter, treatment and other services to help them escape.

FBI agents researched trafficking in the 10 days before and 10 days after the 2015 celebration of all things marijuana. Agents found 4,397 escort listings on five websites during that period, said Deborah Sherman, a Denver FBI spokeswoman. That is a 35 percent increase in online escort postings during an average 10-day period on those sites, she said.

“They also posted a lot of references to 420,” Sherman said.

And 40 percent of the escorts interviewed by police during the week said they had traveled to Colorado because of the special event.

James Bret Anderson (Handout)
James Bret Anderson (Handout)

Among those arrested were Pedro Davalos, who was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for sexual servitude in Adams County and James Brent Anderson, who was arrested in Jefferson County after he allegedly tried to make arrangements for sex with an undercover officer posing as a 7-year-old, the FBI said.

“Whenever an event draws people from around the world, you will see an increase in sex trafficking,” Thomas Ravenelle, Denver’s FBI special agent in charge, said in the news release. “The reality is major events will always have some organized criminal activity, including people who facilitate and profit from prostituting adults and children.”

Noelle Phillips: 303-954-1661, nphillips@denverpost.com or @Noelle_Phillips

This story was first published on DenverPost.com