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Twenty men were arrested Thursday, eight at an undisclosed hotel in Goleta, after answering an online ad offering prostitution services, officials with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said Saturday.

The effort, which officials referred to as a "reverse John" sting, involved investigators placing an online ad on backpage.com, a website for online prostitution related advertisements. The advertisement listed the availability of a female willing to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money, according to Sheriff's officials.

Once the ad was placed, a female undercover detective negotiated with an inquiring person or "John," a sexual act for an amount of money. After the negotiation, the undercover detective gave the person her location at the hotel. Once the "John" arrived at the location, that person was arrested for solicitation of prostitution. 

Officials said all subjects arrested were cooperative when contacted by detectives. 

The following men were arrested and booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail for violation of Penal Code section 647(b), solicitation of prostitution. 

  • Nho Nguyen, 59, of Santa Barbara
  • Allen Obiols, 51, of Santa Barbara
  • Jesus Saldana, 28, of Santa Barbara
  • Ger Hang, 31, of Lompoc
  • Eric Fowler, 43, of Fresno
  • Keisuke Hata, 21, of Goleta
  • Christopher Blaul, 48, of Santa Barbara
  • Matthew Wu, 20, of Santa Barbara
  • Antonio Perez-Collado, 56, of Goleta
  • Juan Zepeda-Corona, 40, of Solvang
  • Edward Farley, 66, of Santa Barbara
  • Vatche Agob, 20, of Isla Vista
  • Justin Litterelle, 35, of Philadelphia
  • Laszlo Nagy-Bert, 44, of Ventura
  • Isacc Kielmanowicz, 20, of Santa Barbara
  • Ramon Chavez-Antolino, 34, of Santa Barbara
  • Peter Gaum, 57, of Santa Barbara
  • Jose Torres, 23, of Goleta
  • Juan Pimentel, 44, of Goleta
  • Jeremiah Frazier, 23, of Santa Barbara

Over the years, the number of online prostitution-related advertisements have grown significantly in Santa Barbara County, including the areas of Goleta and Santa Barbara. Many women who engage in prostitution are victims of various types of abuse and human trafficking, according to officials.

One issue that drives human trafficking is the demand for women to engage in prostitution. By conducting these types of operations, the intention is to deter people or the "Johns" from searching for a prostitute, thereby reducing the demand and hopefully reducing the amount of women who fall victim to the abuse of human trafficking, Sheriff's officials said in a statement.

The sting was a collaborative effort of Santa Barbara County Sheriff's detectives, the Special Investigations Bureau and Santa Barbara police officers. 

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Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210

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Courts/Public Safety Reporter