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Police arrest at least 9 in prostitution sting in Pittsburgh

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Saturday, June 21, 2014, 9:33 a.m.
 

A woman arrested on Friday on charges of prostitution told police that she traveled to Pittsburgh with her husband and children and left them at a Green Tree hotel while she went to work as an escort, Pittsburgh police said on Saturday.

Jessica Banks, 32, of Toledo, Ohio, was one of nine women arrested on prostitution or prostitution-related charges in a sting that was conducted by city police detectives, along with the FBI's Human Trafficking Task Force, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Task Force, the state Attorney General's Office, federal probation officers and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department.

FBI spokesman Greg Heeb said information about the arrests was expected to be released on Monday.

Police sent responses to several online escort ads, asking the women to meet them at a city hotel. Once there, according to the complaints, eight women, all between the ages of 23 and 32, offered to perform sexual acts on undercover officers for prices ranging from $200 to $500.

Eight women were charged with prostitution. One of them, Michelle D. Skoupil, 24, of Upper St. Clair, faces drug possession charges. She's awaiting a hearing on prostitution charges filed against her by Jefferson Hills police on May 15.

A ninth woman, Heather West, 38, of Esplen, was charged with promoting prostitution.

West told police that she only accompanied Heather McGure, 23, of Hampton to the hotel room “to make sure she is safe. I'm her security,” according to the criminal complaint. Police charged McGure with prostitution and criminal conspiracy.

Nichole Webster, 25, of Toledo told police that she prefers to conduct business in Pittsburgh because she makes more money here than in Cleveland or Toledo, according to the criminal complaint. Webster told police that she had no other way to make a living.

Banks and Courtney R. Pena, 32, also of Toledo, arrived at the hotel room together, according to complaints. After Banks' arrest, police wrote, officers went to her hotel and found the children were safe and in good health. Her husband, who was not named, was aware of the arrests, according to the documents.

Jessica Oliver, 23, of Carrick, who was charged on Friday, is awaiting trial on prostitution-related charges from April, according to court records. Also arrested were Jennifer A. Mezik, 25, of Scranton and Allecia N. Brown, 29, of Copperas, Texas.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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