Two charged in prostitution bust

Woman claims alleged ringleader threatened to harm her children
Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:44 PM

Police here say they got conflicting versions of how an admitted pimp wound up with the children of one of his prostitutes in his car.

The woman claims he told her he’d kill them if she didn’t have sex with men he sent to her; the pimp says he was just taking care of the children while she worked.

Jonathan Daniel Lopez, 32, of 202 Two View Drive in Pigeon Forge, admitted to Pigeon Forge police officer Matthew Pendleton that he was running a prostitution ring, according to his arrest warrant. But he told the officer he was just providing day care for one of his employees by keeping her children, aged 2 years and five months, while she was working for him.

“Mr. Lopez admitted to being a ‘pimp’ but denied holding the children against the will of (their mother).”

The Mountain Press is not identifying the children’s mother because she’s the alleged victim of a sex crime.

The incident started Sunday when the woman’s husband apparently went to the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office and told officers there his family had been kidnapped, according to Pigeon Forge Police Chief Jack Baldwin. After some discussion, they realized the group could be in this area and contacted local authorities. “Luckily her husband went to the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department, which was able to get us enough info to locate her,” Baldwin said.

Pigeon Forge officers found the woman in Lopez’s apartment; she said that he had showed her a revolver and threatened to harm her children unless she had sex with men he sent to the apartment.

Pendleton and other police officers found Lopez and a woman, Jennifer Diaz, driving in Diaz’s car a short time later with the children inside. They didn’t find a revolver in Lopez’s possession, Baldwin said.

Diaz also told police she was just caring for the children. “Ms. Diaz advised she was babysitting for (the woman) while she was at Jonathan Lopez’s apartment with a Hispanic male engaging in sexual activity for money,” Pendleton wrote.

Lopez and Diaz cooperated when the officers stopped them, Baldwin said. The children were unhurt and were returned to their parents.

Police also found what they believed to be cocaine and marijuana in Lopez’s home; the arrest warrants indicate he has previous convictions on drug charges in Florida.

They charged him with two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated kidnapping, promotion of prostitution, possession of a schedule II substance and possession of a schedule VI substance. He was being held at the Sevier County Jail Monday.

Diaz, 32, of 853 Montewood Circle in Pigeon Forge, was charged with promoting prostitution.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com