Sunday, September 25, 2005


Pastor charged in prostitution sting

Oakland, Calif. — A local pastor was arrested Thursday night after negotiating a $20 oral sex act, police said.

The Rev. Craig Ward flagged a female undercover officer over to his church-issued BMW just after 10:30 p.m., police said.

"It was blatant," said Officer Mark Turpin, a member of the Oakland Police Department vice squad. "He wasn't there trying to save anybody."

Ward, 40, is pastor of the Brookins African Methodist Episcopal Church on 73rd Avenue in Oakland. He was arrested on the 1400 block of 38th Avenue during a prostitution sting that netted dozens of suspected hookers, johns and pimps.

It was the third time the clergyman has been arrested and charged for soliciting a prostitute.

Ward was convicted of the crime in 2002 and again last year in Oakland, police said. He also spent four years in prison for a 1997 burglary and returned later for carrying a weapon in his car, police said.

Calls to church leaders were not returned Friday. AME Bishop John Bryant was out of town at a conference and could not be reached, his assistant at the church's district headquarters in Los Angeles said. Church elder Booker T. Guyton also did not return calls.

Turpin and as many as 70 other officers were on the streets of East Oakland between 6:30 p.m. and midnight Thursday decoying as prostitutes and johns, or providing backup to make the arrests. An Alameda County sheriff's deputy also assisted, Turpin said.

The 51/2-hour sting resulted in a total of 68 arrests — 32 johns, two pimps and 34 prostitutes. Three of the prostitutes arrested were juveniles as young as 14, police said. Police also charged two men with selling narcotics Thursday.

Officers towed 22 cars belonging to the suspected johns, including trucks belonging to two contractors arrested Thursday for attempting to purchase sex.

One man attempted to pick up an undercover decoy from the back seat of a taxicab, Turpin said.

Police have made several hundred arrests since they began these weekly — sometimes biweekly — prostitution stings last year, Lt. Mike Yoell said.

Local police have made the stings a priority because they say prostitutes bring with them crime, pimps, drug dealing, guns and theft.

Nearly half the prostitutes and johns arrested Thursday were from out of town, Turpin said.

"We don't want'em in our town," he said.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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