A Middleton man was caught in an online prostitution ring, which is just the tip of the Internet crime iceberg, authorities said. Law enforcement said prostitution is prevalent online, but finding the culprits can get complex, expensive and time consuming.
Just a few clicks of the mouse and Web users will find they can buy or sell almost anything on sites like backpage.com.
Ads can be found promising $80 specials for a "good time."
"It's a very easy way for them to sell their wares and make victims available for victimization on the Internet," said Dean Stensberg, director of public affairs with the state Department of Justice.
Alvin Siller, 38, known as "Slim," has been charged with more than a dozen felony offenses, including human trafficking, pimping and child enticement. Siller is accused of using backpage.com to advertise women for sex.
It's a case Middleton police have been tracking for more than a year.
Court documents show Siller was accused of beating women, using drugs and a owning handgun he named "Lucille" to control them.
Internet sites served as an initial connection before police said Siller arranged for the women to meet customers in Madison-area hotels.
Authorities said Internet-related crimes similar to Siller's are not uncommon, but stopping them isn't easy.
"In this department, we receive three complaints a day,” Stensberg said. “We exercise subpoenas or search warrants two or three times a day. Every third day, an arrest is undertaken."
The attorney general's office said it works on similar cases constantly. But it can't just shut down a website.
"The sites themselves are lawful; how criminals use them is what's unlawful,” Stensberg said. “It's the conduct and behavior that takes place there that’s unlawful."
Siller is due back in court in June.
The Department of Justice is working to include enforcement against Internet-related crimes, specifically child trafficking, in the new budget.
Most recently the department conducted a sting called Operation Black Veil in which agents went on online and placed similar ads. Within just three days agents made 500 contacts and 17 arrests, officials said.