A public school teacher and a youth pastor were among 46 men arrested in a multi-agency prostitution sting conducted earlier this month in North Texas.
The suspects were arrested on January 12 and 13 at hotels in Frisco and Southlake after responding to online ads for sex posted by law enforcement.
Cecil Timothy Morrison Jr., 42, was a teacher and football coach at Flower Mound’s Marcus High School in Lewisville Independent School District. He was placed on administrative leave following his arrest and submitted his resignation on January 18.
In an email to Marcus High School families, Principal Will Skelton stated that “Coach Morrison has not returned to campus since he was placed on leave, and we have no indication the situation surrounding his arrest involved Marcus students.”
According to records from the Tarrant County sheriff’s office, Morrison resides in Denton and was released from custody on a $1,500 bond on January 13.
Morrison was previously arrested in 2012 for driving while intoxicated in Denton County.
Lamarcus Strickland, 35, worked as a youth pastor for First Priority of America, a ministry that helps Christian students organize clubs in public schools across the country. His name has been removed from the staff information page on the organization’s website.
According to Charisma News, Strickland is married with three children and was ordained as a pastor in 2018 at Compass Church in Tarrant County. Records from the Tarrant County sheriff’s office show he is a resident of Keller and paid a $1,000 bond on January 13.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security organized the sting in coordination with nearly a dozen North Texas law enforcement agencies as part of its Blue Campaign, an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking. Since 2010, the White House has issued a proclamation recognizing January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“Thwarting sex trafficking is one of our agency’s top priorities,” Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Dallas Special Agent in Charge Lester R. Hayes said in a press release. “By targeting those involved in this crime, we hope to disrupt this activity and provide assistance to human trafficking victims by getting them connected to the advocates and resources they need,” Hayes continued.
HSI Dallas Supervisory Special Agent John Perez, who oversees the North Texas Trafficking Task Force, said “thousands of ads are posted every single day in the DFW area.” He explained, “Where there’s money there’s definitely commercial sex happening and sex trafficking.”
“There are a lot of misconceptions about the people that consume this,” Perez continued. “It’s people you think are family men. Men of the cloth, if you will. … People in positions that we trust our children and our families with.”
Dr. Tonya Stafford Manning, founder and CEO of It’s Going To Be OK, a nonprofit organization that helps exploited women and raises awareness about human trafficking, agrees. “It’s happening more than people think and know,” Manning said. “It’s happening right up under our noses. It’s happening right in our backyards.”
“I think other people were shocked by it because of who was implicated in the sting itself,” she added.
Although Frisco police detectives found no evidence to substantiate rumors of underage trafficking in the community, victim advocate Chelsea Robertson said she’s “very happy to see those soliciting being prosecuted because if there’s no demand there’s no supply.”
Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn was particularly blunt in his remarks about the operation.
“Those who traffic victims are the scourge of the earth, and we will continue to target those responsible for the trafficking and those who solicit sex from them,” he stated.
Local law enforcement agencies that participated in the sting include the Arlington Police Department, Colleyville Police Department, Collin County Sheriff’s Department, Dallas Police Department, Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, Flower Mound Police Department, Frisco Police Department, Irving Police Department, Midlothian Police Department, and the Tarrant County Human Trafficking Task Force.
In 2021, the Texas Legislature upgraded the charge for solicitation of prostitution from a misdemeanor to a felony, becoming the first state in the nation to do so. Those convicted of this offense are subject to a $10,000 fine and up to two years in jail.