Police: Prostitution scam doesn't work on undercover officer
A prostitution scam backfired on a pair of would-be thieves Friday when the man the couple attempted to rob in a sex-for-money arrangement proved to be an undercover police officer.
The arrests were among six others in a multi-agency prostitution sweep conducted by the Northern York County Regional Police Department and the FBI, along with the Harrisburg and Fairview Township police departments, the York County District Attorney's Office and the York County Drug Task Force.
The sting targeted the string of hotels that line the Route 30 corridor in Manchester Township, according to a Northern York County Regional Police Department news release.
Jasmine Byers, 22, of Landisville, and Michael McCue, 38, of Columbia, Lancaster County, are both charged with attempted robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Both Byers and McCue were placed in York County Prison. Bail has been set at $75,000 each.
According to charging documents, an undercover officer from the Harrisburg Police Department answered an advertisement on Backpage.com billed "Hottie with a body 23."
The sting: The officer responded to the ad with a telephone call that went unanswered, but he received a text message immediately after placing the call. After a short conversation, a meeting was arranged with the female later identified as Byers at the Motel 6 on Arsenal Road, according to the documents.
The negotiated fee for the sex came to $200, plus a $40 "tip" for the driver since he was coming from Lancaster County, the documents state.
At 6:54 p.m., Byers arrived at Room 236 at the Motel 6, and the undercover officer let her in. He gave her the money, which she put in her front pocket, and she excused herself to the bathroom. When she came out she placed a phone call and then asked to be excused again, this time to go to the vending machine.
The undercover officer, based on his experience and training, did not go for the ruse. He told her she could drink the water in the room. At that moment there came a banging at the door, according to the documents.
The undercover officer cracked the door and saw a white male, later identified as McCue, standing at the door with his fists balled and in a posture the "indicated he was attempting to have a physical confrontation," the documents said. The arrest team moved in and took both Byers and McCue into custody.
In a recorded interview at the command post set up near the hotel, Byers admitted she and McCue had run the scam twice before, but both times she had been able to "wiggle out of the room." This was the first time McCue had come up to the room, she said.
Byers told police she was running the scam to get money for drugs. McCue was less inclined to be interviewed. According to the charging documents, he was taken directly to central booking based on his demeanor.
McCue did not necessarily resist arrest, he just wasn't going to be cooperative, Lt. David Lash said.
"He just wasn't going to talk to us. So there wasn't any point in wasting time," Lash said.
More charges: Only one of the six women facing arrest on prostitution charges has been identified so far. That is because the others have not yet officially been charged, Lash said.
Wang Yan, 43, of Flushing, New York, is charged with a single count of prostitution. She is free on $10,000 bail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing, along with Byers and McCue, before Magisterial District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Oberdorf at 9 a.m. July 8.
Also arrested in the sting were:
- A 20-year-old female from Lemoyne, Cumberland County
- A 23-year-old female from Mechanicsburg, Cumberland County
- A 24-year-old female from York City
- A 23-year-old female from Lock Haven, Clinton County
- A 53-year-old female from York City