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Seven arrested in online prostitution sting

Friday, October 12, 2012

The sheriff's office is getting the word out -- men looking online to find prostitutes could find themselves in jail.

Seven men were just caught in an undercover sting at a hotel in north Harris County. The sheriff's office says they conducted this sting operation in response to complaints about prostitution in the FM 1960 commercial corridor. All it takes, they say, is an agreement to pay for sex in order for them to make an arrest.

They first met the men online. Investigators placed fake ads on Craigslist and other sites -- ads that either overtly offered sex for money, or implied as much.

Those who replied, detectives say, then met undercover deputies posing as prostitutes at a hotel off FM 1960 near the North Freeway.

"We're not only just targeting the prostitutes, the people who are selling the sex, we are also targeting the people who are buying sex," explained Christina Garza with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

In all, seven men were arrested at the hotel Thursday, after each allegedly agreed to pay for sex. All have been charged with prostitution.

Cab driver Phil Barbera said, "It's a good thing they caught them."

Barbera says he's surprised because it's not an area he would equate with having a prostitution problem.

"You have to keep the area clean," he said. "You got a lot of residents out here, schools on the outskirts. You know, enough's enough."

Among the seven arrested was Joseph Francis Andolino. According to Halliburton's website, he is a senior vice president over its tax department.

A spokesperson confirms Andolino is an executive and says, "We expect our officers and employees to maintain high standards of professional and personal conduct, but we do not comment on personal matters."

Halliburton would not say if Andolino is still employed.

The seven men each face a Class B misdemeanor charge of prostitution punishable by up to six months in jail.

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