A multi-agency investigation into Oklahoma prostitution rings has led to eight arrests so far, including two educators from the small town of Ripley, Oklahoma. "Operation Velvet Fury" is a crackdown targeting organized prostitution using dark web communications and online forums to arrange prostitution at local massage parlors and businesses that were used as fronts for commercial sex.
According to investigators, the sting was not intended to target the women working as prostitutes, but rather, it was intended to disrupt the "demand" portion of the supply and demand chain. Those arrested were individuals accused of facilitating the prostitution: the leaders of the alleged sex rings and the "johns," or customers who utilized their services.
Among those arrested as a result of Operation Velvet Fury are a former Ripley middle school employee and the superintendent of Ripley schools. Reports say Kacey Williamson was employed by Ripley Public Schools as a 6th grade teacher at the time of her arrest. Williamson is accused of working as a moderator of a site that was used to facilitate prostitution. Investigators say Williamson wrote on the site that she was "starting a new life" [as a teacher], but that she would be keeping "select clients."
At the time of her arrest, Williamson identified one of her superiors at Ripley Public Schools as a person known to solicit prostitution. Since then, investigators have arrested Ripley Public Schools superintendent Kenneth Beams on a complaint of soliciting prostitution.
School board vice-president Brett Morris confirmed the employment of Williamson and Beams and said the board was "shocked." He said the board had not yet had a chance to meet to address the issue or to confer with legal counsel. Morris says he expects an emergency board meeting to be scheduled in compliance with the Open Records Act.
As a result of the sting, seven alleged leaders of local sex rings were arrested. Teresa Adams, Thomas Johnson, Ravi Chandra Kakaraparthi, Meri Peterson, Kara Rodriguez, Kacey Williamson and Elizabeth Wyers were charged Thursday in Tulsa County District Court with racketeering, pandering, using computers to violate state law, having proceeds from violating state law and conspiracy. Kenneth Beams faces a charge of soliciting prostitution.
Investigators say that the women working as prostitutes are often the victims of sex trafficking. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent Ryan Spradlin says that investigators are working with outside agencies to provide therapy, treatment, and rehabilitation services to the women who were working as prostitutes at the now-shuttered massage parlors.