Police: 11 men nabbed for soliciting underage sex

KENT, Wash. -- Police arrested 11 Western Washington men accused of soliciting underage sex as part of a sting authorities dubbed "Operation Cold Shower."

The investigation took place over two days last week, Renton police said, and involved officers placing ads in online websites and then posing as underage girls. In each case, the suspect agreed to pay money for a sexual encounter with a girl he believed to be as young as 15 years old, according to police. The suspect would then arrive at an area hotel to find investigators waiting to arrest him.

"It is a heinous crime -- men exploiting young women -- and we want to get out there and send that message," said Officer Bryan Elliott, who worked on the case. "Child exploitation is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. We're going after the demand side of it."

Two of the 11 suspects -- Paul Buenafe, 30, of Auburn, and Aaron Roethle, 37, of Lake Stevens -- have been released from jail and are facing felony charges. A third suspect -- Cheuk H. Chiu, 20, of Bellevue -- remains in jail, because prosecutors consider him a flight risk. Eight additional suspects were also arrested in the case, although prosecutors have declined to file charges against them so far.

Buenafe was arrested after responding to an ad in the 'casual encounters' section of Craisglist and later sending more than 20 emails to an undercover officer, according to court documents. He agreed to pay $100 in exchange for sex, prosecutors said.

Some suspects expressed concern that the person they were communicating with could be a police officer.

"How do I know you're not a cop?" wrote Roethle in an email, according to court documents. "Lol I've seen this on TV," he wrote.

A young man who answered the door at Roethle's home Tuesday said Roethle was not there.

"Most of these men are very careful and they really look out for law enforcement," said Elliott. "They still showed up. They had an opportunity to not show up."

If convicted, the suspects could face up to 10 years in jail, police said. At least one of the suspects is a Macau native living in Washington on a student visa.

"It's targeting our daughters, our nieces, our nephews, our brothers and sisters," Elliott added. "That's our job as law enforcement officers - to enforce the laws."