Suspected Portland pimp appears in court

Joseph McKenzie, 41, shown in a jail booking photo after being arrested in a sex trafficking sting.
Joseph McKenzie, 41, shown in a jail booking photo after being arrested in a sex trafficking sting.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A nationwide sex trafficking string resulted in the arrest of a 41-year-old man accused of being a pimp in Portland.

Joseph McKenzie has pleaded not guilty to six counts of promoting prostitution following his arrest last Thursday by members of the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct Prostitution Coordination Team.

Members of the undercover string, including police and FBI agents meet. (FBI photo).
Members of the undercover string, including police and FBI agents meet. (FBI photo).

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, the investigating officers were taking part in a multi-agency law enforcement mission known as Operation Cross Country that was targeting pimps who drive their victims to dates.

Officers with PPB went undercover and posed as Johns – men who are willing to pay for sex – and set up dates with people who were posting advertisements on escort websites.

Prosecutor Kelley A. Cloyd states in court documents that after a date was arraigned, the victim, whose name and age has not been released, was seeing being dropped off at the motel by McKenzie.

McKenzie is accused of posting to the websites that advertise prostitution activity, driving the victim to the arraigned dates and then taking a cut of the money Johns paid the female.

Some of the prostitution dates occurred at hotels in the Lloyd District and at two upscale downtown Portland hotels, court documents state.

According to Beth Anne Steele, an FBI spokeswoman, the sex trafficking sting — conducted by Oregon FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force — was in conjunction with a national week-long event known as Operation Cross Country VIII.

“Sex traffickers are selling kids—our kids—every day in motels, on the street and in our neighborhoods for sex,” Greg Bretzing, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon said in a prepared statement. “Over time, the children age into adulthood—but the impact of this victimization continues for each of them, their families, and the community as a whole.”

FBI agents walk an adult victim of human sex trafficking to be interviewed during their sting (FBI photo)
FBI agents walk an adult victim of human sex trafficking to be interviewed during their sting (FBI photo)

During the mission in Oregon, police recovered a human sex trafficking victim who is under the age of 18 and identified 20 adult victims.

Officials said law enforcement and social service providers worked with each victim to provide counseling, mental health services, medical assistance, housing, and advocacy resources to them.

“Many of the adults had been trafficked since they were 13 or 14 years old,” Steele said in a prepared statement.

Since the FBI in Oregon started participating in Operation Cross Country, a total of 20 local minor victims during those specific operations.

The FBI encourages anyone who suspects a child or person of being sold for sex to contact their local police department right away.

McKenzie is scheduled to be back in court July 3.

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