SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Police Department reports that seven men were arrested last week as part of an undercover prostitution sting, the first such large-scale operation for the department since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, that targeted “Johns” in the Springfield area.
- RAYMOND MERCADO-MOLINA, AGE 29, OF WEST SPRINGFIELD, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. MERCADO-MOLINA was arrested near the intersection of Main and State Streets.
- ANTONIO HOWIE, AGE 24, OF SPRINGFIELD, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. HOWIE was arrested on Wendall Place.
- TIMOTHY JACKSON, AGE 26, OF PALMER, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. JACKSON was arrested on Union Street.
- AARRON GAMBLE, AGE 22, OF EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. GAMBLE was arrested on Wendall Place.
- HENRY FESTA, AGE 59, OF SPRINGFIELD, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. FESTA was arrested on Longhill Street.
- CHARLAMAGNE MATA, AGE 49, OF SPRINGFIELD, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. MATA also allegedly had a License to Carry and a loaded gun in his vehicle, which has since been revoked. He was additionally charged with a firearms license violation. MATA was arrested on Central Street.
- CHRISTOPHER CABRERA, AGE 28, OF SPRINGFIELD, was charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee. CABRERA was arrested on Broad Street.
On Thursday, May 27, members of the Springfield Police Narcotics Unit under the direction of Capt. Brian Keenan, Springfield Police Detectives, Massachusetts State Police Gang Unit, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and Massachusetts State Police High Risk Victims Unit under the direction of Lt. Edward Hattan, conducted an undercover operation targeting “Johns.” This operation was carried out in response to ongoing quality of life complaints from citizens in the South End neighborhood.
In recent years, under the direction of Springfield Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood and Narcotics Unit Capt. Brian Keenan, the Springfield Police Department has been working to target “Johns” instead of the women generally involved in prostitution.
This strategy is coupled with the department’s Hub & Cor program which identifies many of the women and gives them opportunities to get the help they may need through various partner agencies, rather than being placed under arrest.
“Many of the women involved in these activities struggle with substance use and are victims themselves, and we will continue to work with our partner agencies to provide them with the help and resources they need,” said Commissioner Clapprood. “These coordinated efforts with the Massachusetts State Police address numerous quality of life complaints from our residents, and through continued operations like this, we want to make it clear that if you are soliciting prostitution in our city, you will be arrested.”
“This is a quality of life issue and is not a victimless crime,” Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said. “To those prostituting themselves, unfortunately it is a cry for help and we will continue to steer them towards the appropriate agencies for assistance.”
These are allegations. All suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.