Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday arrested an Anchorage woman accused of running an online sex trafficking business that advertised in cities across the state. The bust stems from a series of cooperative investigations by local, state and federal law enforcement into the Alaska sex trade.
Amber Batts, 39, is accused of finding johns for the women who worked for her and taking a portion of the proceeds, troopers said.
An investigation by the Alaska Bureau of Investigation's Special Crimes Investigation Unit into the alleged prostitution ring began in March, troopers said. Investigators learned that women were being marketed online in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Juneau, Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula in a commercial online business. Batts was found to be managing and supervising the business, troopers say.
The special crimes unit, an arm of the Alaska State Troopers, was formed in February. It reported its first major sex trafficking bust later that month, arresting a 33-year-old man on seven counts of sex trafficking, according to troopers. The unit works with multiple agencies including the FBI, said troopers spokesperson Megan Peters.
The unit learned details of the sex trafficking business involving Batts in March, according to troopers.
About 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, investigators served two search warrants in Anchorage: one for an apartment where troopers say patrons of the business met with the women and "where a large majority of the commercial sexual acts took place," according to a trooper dispatch posted online. The other warrant was for Batts' home, troopers said.
Troopers said investigators uncovered evidence showing an "ongoing enterprise" in which money was exchanged for sex acts.
Batts was being held at the Anchorage jail Thursday in lieu of $15,000 bail. Her conditions of release ban her from posting on Craigslist and sensualalaska.com, a website featuring "adult entertainers serving the State of Alaska," according to its homepage.
A judge also banned Batts from posting on "backpages," classified ad websites of sorts that may include postings for escorts.
An active, licensed business of Batts' is Alaska Naughty Maids. It's listed as an administrative and waste management business, according to state records.
Amber Batts' criminal history includes convictions for drunken driving, driving with a suspended license and evidence tampering, among other charges. Her most serious conviction was handed down in 2009; she was sentenced to three years in jail for stabbing a man in the neck with a broken beer bottle, according to court records.
The special crimes unit's major arrest in February involved a defendant sharing the same last name as Amber. In that case, 33-year-old Jeron Batts was charged with seven counts of sex trafficking in various degrees, as well as seven counts of tampering with physical evidence.
It was not immediately clear whether the two sex trafficking defendants are related. State prosecutor Adam Alexander said he could not comment on a potential connection between the defendants. He said their cases are separate.
"We have not found any direct correlations between those cases at this time," said Peters in an email.
In the earlier case, "investigators … learned that (Jeron) Batts would procure patrons of the sex-trafficking trade for the women who worked for him and in return would receive either a portion or the entire proceeds for the sexual acts performed by the women," troopers reported. Batts threatened one of the women with physical harm "if she did not perform," troopers said.
Jeron Batts' trial is set for August. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for a 2004 shooting at a Muldoon trailer park, according to news reports at the time.
In addition to the troopers investigations, Anchorage police also have been working with the FBI to investigate sex-for-hire crimes.
In April, several women were charged in Anchorage for "practicing," or engaging in prostitution, which is a municipal code violation. During the investigations, an undercover agent would call a phone number listed online on a "sex-for-money advertisement," according to the charges.
After meeting and agreeing to have sex with the agent for an agreed-upon price, ranging from $200 to $500, the false john announced "the bust signal" and officers would swoop in and arrest the women, according to the charges.