NEW ORLEANS (March 29, 2013)—Five people from Waco were arrested Thursday evening in New Orleans after police discovered a prostitution ring working out of hotels in New Orleans.
Eddie Sowells, 23, Katrina Walls, 24, Taylor Courtney, 19, Alexis Keener, age unknown, and another unidentified 19-year-old woman all were arrested and charged with various violations that ranged from promoting prostitution to possession of a stolen firearm.
New Orleans jail records indicate, however, the charges against the unidentified 19-year-old later were dropped and she was released from custody.
New Orleans Eighth District Detective Kurt Eischen reported he discovered an advertisement offering sexual services on the website "Backpage.com", and arranged to meet with Keener at a hotel room in the 100-block of St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans’ Central Business District.
Detective Eischen arrived at the hotel at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday and met with Keener, who called an acquaintance, another 19-year-old woman, to ask her if she could bring her condoms.
According to Eischen’s report, when the second woman got to the room, she was met by Eischen and three other New Orleans police detectives.
The second woman gave police a statement about her involvement in the prostitution ring, and said this was her first time trying to work as a prostitute.
Further investigation revealed the room the women planned to work out of that night was one of three in the hotel rented by Walls.
Walls also eventually came to the room and was detained by the detectives for questioning.
As interviews continued, investigators learned that Sowells had picked up Keener and the other 19-year-old woman in Waco and had driven them to New Orleans to act as prostitutes and Sowells would get a 50 percent cut of each sexual transaction performed by the women.
At another hotel room rented as part of the scheme officers found Sowells and Courtney.
Both were told that they were under investigation for violation of Louisiana prostitution laws and were asked to turn over any weapons they may have had.
Courtney gave officers an unloaded handgun she had in her purse which later was found to have been stolen from Texas.
The detectives eventually relocated the group of suspects to the 8th District Station where Taylor Courtney and the unidentified 19-year-old woman gave videotaped statements implementing Eddie Sowells as a panderer/human trafficker and Katrina Walls as a promoter of prostitution by placing the Backpage.com ads and renting three hotel rooms for illegal activity.
Sowells was charged with pandering, possession of stolen property (the handgun) and human trafficking.
Courtney was charged with possession of stolen property; Keener with prostitution; and Walls with promoting prostitution and letting premises for prostitution.
The unidentified 19-year-old woman was not booked.
"The perpetrators in human trafficking cases are reprehensible, and the people they prey on to work for them are victims who are usually struggling in life and simply looking for a way to survive", said New Orleans police Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
"The work done by Detective Eischen and our other officers in this case was immediate, well-executed and thorough.
“Their efforts in identifying and taking action in suspicious cases like this are how this department is chipping away at the crippling cycles of human trafficking that have ruined too many lives,” Serpas said.