MORGANTOWN — Three women were arrested for prostitution at a Sabraton hotel Monday evening.
Erica Rae Herrod, 38, of Monongalia County, Stephanie Lynn Clark, 34, of Morgantown, and Clara Ann Earnest, 25, of Tampa, Fla., and Morgantown, were arrested and charged with prostitution.
The women were arraigned Tuesday and are being held in North Central Regional Jail, a Morgantown Police Department press release stated. According to the release, the women were advertising prostitution-related activities and were arrested after an undercover operation.
A records search showed none of the three women have been charged with prostitution before. Earnest and Clark have been arrested previously, for both felonies and misdemeanors, but Herrod only had minor traffic violations in Ritchie and Harrison counties.
Prostitution is a misdemeanor and the first conviction is punishable by 60 days to six months in prison and a fine of $50 to $100. A second conviction carries six months to a year in prison and a $100 to $250 fine. Subsequent convictions are punishable by one to three years in prison.
The arrests were the result of a collaborative effort with local hotels, motels and other commercial establishments. Officers have established relationships with those businesses in order to monitor and report suspicious activities, the press release stated. Morgantown Police, the MonMetro Drug Task Force, Harrison County Drug Task Force and the DEA worked together on the operation.
MPD works with the West Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force to combat human trafficking, according to the release. This and other cases are ongoing with a focus on identifying, locating and prosecuting individuals who subject others to servitude through sex trades, the release stated.
Preston said these arrests stemmed from human trafficking investigations, but the women are not involved in human trafficking.
“We are working with various groups and some of the information we developed led us to [Monday] night’s arrests,” Preston said, stressing that those arrests had nothing to do with human trafficking.
According to criminal complaints:
Clark, Herrod and Earnest agreed to commit certain sex acts with an undercover officer in exchange for money. The crime happened about 7:40 p.m. Monday at the SpringHill Suites Marriott, 1910 Hunters Way, behind the Sheetz on Earl L. Core Road.
A Marriott International spokesperson told The Dominion Post all questions should be referred to the appropriate authorities and did not answer questions relating to the company’s policy regarding illegal activity on its property.