Virginia woman arrested for prostitution after responding to Craigslist ad

11:38 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WUSA9) -- A Virginia woman believes she was unfairly busted for prostitution after looking for love on Craigslist. Turns out the man who befriended her online was an undercover cop. 

"I don't use drugs. I don't drink alcohol," said the woman, whom we'll call "Donna." She insists she was looking for a little romance, trying to find a so-called "friend with benefits."

"I was focused on the location and the fact that they were looking for someone with my body type," she told our sister station WUSA 9 News. 

Instead, she was busted for prostitution.

"I said, 'What is this about?' And he said, 'You're being arrested for prostitution.'"

Donna is a highly educated, employed woman in her 50s. She responded to an ad on Craigslist and began an email correspondence with a man she says simply wanted a glimpse of her breasts.

"I've been getting that request since sixth grade," she laughed. "That's nothing new!"  

The two met on a weekday evening in a busy Northern Virginia parking lot, in front of a Target. Minutes later, she got into his car and they drove here, to an office parking lot next door.

"At one point, while we were just chitchatting, he proposed a position for full-on everything. I was like, 'What? Here?! No!'" 

She says he asked if they could move to a more secluded place.

"I said, 'No, definitely.' And I shook my head left and right to make sure that isn't gonna happen."

Then, she says, he indicated he wanted to get started.

"I took that as a clue to unhook my brassiere," she said, adding that her actions prompted an angry response.

According to Donna, he yelled, "You stop that now!"

Fear, she says, took over.

"I just froze in my seat. At that point, he said, 'Look here.' Like an order. Loudly. 'Look here.' And he had money in his hand," she said. "The funny thing was, he had it in his crotch, which was weird. I thought when he demanded me to look there, I was going to see something else."

She says he shoved a fistful of cash in front of her face and issued a command: "TAKE IT!"

Donna did as she was told and acknowledges she never tried to escape.

"I was frozen. I was too afraid. And I wasn't sure that the back doors were unlocked. I was just deathly afraid. Once he yelled at me, I was doing everything he said."

Moments later, the car was surrounded.

"Guns and guys in black with masks on. So I didn't know at that split-second that they were police. I didn't know what the heck was going on," she told us. "When they all came around, all dressed in black, pointing guns at me, I was really afraid that I was just gonna get killed."

Donna says she feared for her life until she spotted a Fairfax County Police logo on one of their sleeves.

"I was kind of relieved that it wasn't some crazy gang. I was relieved, because I wasn't going to get killed, or attacked or raped or something."

One year later, Donna was convicted. In court, the prosecution focused on the word "roses" in the Craigslist ad... an apparent code word for cash. The ad reads "I got two hundred roses."

"It looked like he was looking for a date and I have $200 to spend on a date. To me, that was my first impression. And I was like, 'Okay, take me out for dinner, that's fine.' There was no sex mentioned."

Remarkably, Donna returned to Craigslist after the incident and found her current boyfriend, whom she's been dating for the last year.

Fairfax County Police say cases like this are handled by its Organized Crime and Narcotics Unit, and that detectives do investigate several cases that stem from online ads, which have risen dramatically in recent years. Police say human trafficking is sometimes involved, in which a victim is forced into these situations against their will.

Donna was handed a $1,000 fine and spent several weekends in jail. She was offered a plea deal, which didn't involve jail time, but she refused. She insists she didn't do anything illegal and is upset there was apparently no video or audiotape of the incident, recorded by police.

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