CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - In a FOX 46 exclusive, investigative reporter Morgan Frances went undercover to capture an eye-opening hotel intervention in which one man showed up to pay for sex, and left feeling a completely different kind of love.
The organization Vigilante Truth aims to put an end to sex trafficking, which is a growing epidemic in Charlotte, and North Carolina.
Days of preparation lead up to the moment when a so-called “John” showed up to pay for sex. What he didn’t know is nearly a dozen people were all there to meet him.
“We're not law enforcement,” said Bo Quickel, the owner of Vigilante Truth, “we don't claim to be. We're not military based. We're just citizens out here trying to help out with the problem; educate the public.”
Inside a hotel room, Vigilante Truth posted an ad for a “busty blonde” on prostitution sites.
“21, 22, 23, 24, 25,” Quickel said out loud as he counted the number of inquiries.
Within minutes of posting the ad, their burner phone started getting texts and calls from men wanting a variety of services.
“He's just really disgusting, which I let him know,” Bo said looking down at one text.
In the other room, you could hear volunteers answering the calls.
“I'll be free within the next 30 minutes or so,” one said.
“$200 for the hour? You can't spend an extra $20,” another volunteer said on the phone.
Vigilante Truth volunteers got texts from old, young, a retired police officer, a married man in Fort Mill, you name it. When the Johns arrive, Bo Quickel doesn’t attack.
“Our goal is to actually fill in that intimacy or power place and heal up those wounds so they don't need to self-medicate anymore,” he said. “That's our goal.”
He explained to FOX 46 how their operation works.
“We will have a female decoy open the hotel room door, sit the gentleman on the couch. She'll go into the bathroom to change, and when she goes into the bathroom to change, I'll come out and have a discussion with them.”
When the John sat down on the couch, he told the women he though was a prostitute that it was his first time hiring a prostitute. Shortly later, Quickel emerged from the hotel room closet.
“How you doing tonight bro?” Quickel asks.
“Pretty good,” the man responded.
“This is going to sound as twisted to you as it is to me,” Quickel said. “I'm the guy you've been texting with all evening.”
Quickel went on to explain that he fights sex trafficking in the United States, adding Charlotte has a real problem with it. He explained to the man on the couch what prostitution has to do with sex trafficking.
“Anytime you're on the internet, there's somebody else there taking the picture,” he said, “and that person's always going to be a pimp, a trafficker, a handler,” he continued saying to the John. “No matter how big [the girls] smile, none of them get any of the money, so it's all about forced coercion, fraud, blackmail.”
Quickel then finds out why the man was there, and in his experience, it’s never just for sex.
“What I see when I look at you is an empty shell that's looking for love,” said a volunteer sitting in the corner of the room.
In the next 45 minutes, the John cried and poured his heart out.
“I feel like the devil is a concept in all of us,” the John confided in the other men, “and everybody has a certain devil aspect to them.”
Quickel countered, “Just because I'm here to save the girls doesn't mean I'm not here to save you.”
The John shared that he has witnessed his friend’s murder, he’s endured physical abuse, he doesn’t feel loved and he doesn’t love himself.
“You attempted suicide,” Quickel repeated. “What happened? Why didn't it work?”
“Well, I had like a rope and, I don't know how to explain it, but the hook just kind of, like, snapped.”
The man talked about a lot of tragedy in his life, but the team showered him with something he had been missing for a long time: love.
They prayed over him, and he was overcome with emotion.
After the hotel intervention, the John agreed to interview with FOX 46. We asked why he didn’t’ run out the door to which he responded, “I don’t know. I guess I felt like they had something good to say. I've never had this love and warmth around me, and I feel like that's been something that's been missing a lot," he said.
When we asked if he would ever seek out a prostitute again, he said, “No. Not at all.”
The volunteers all gave this man a hug before sending him out the door, but he didn’t leave empty handed. For starters, he left with the money he was going to spend on a prostitute. The members of Vigilante Truth also extended a hand offering him counseling and, more importantly, a friendship.