Jerod C. Prunty, 47, an aide to Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins, was arrested Saturday and charged with two counts of pandering, according to booking information from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office.
His arrest is related to the arrest of eight others last week in connection with human sex trafficking, pandering and prostitution involving five Lafayette Parish massage parlors, according to John Mowell, public information officer with the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office.
Our media partners at KATC TV3 obtained the following statement from Higgins' office:
"We are shocked and saddened to learn of allegations against Jerod. His arrest is deeply troubling. Jerod has been placed on administrative leave, pending investigation and adjudication."
The statement continued that Higgins' office will cooperate in the investigation and the congressman has faith in the judicial system.
In January 2018, Higgins was a cosponsor of legislation, the Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign Authorization Act of 2017, designed to help protect victims of human trafficking.
One woman picked up in the Feb. 13 raid said she was the victim of human sex trafficking. One person arrested during the raid was charged with human trafficking.
Xufang Ou, 33, 300 block of Guilbeau Road, Lafayette, was booked on a count of human trafficking and four counts of pandering. She is being held in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center in lieu of $1 million bail on the human trafficking count and $50,000 bail on the four pandering counts.
Bond for Prunty was set at $12,500 for each charge. He is not being held in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center.
On his personal Facebook page, which was taken down late Sunday morning, Prunty stated he works at the U.S. Congress and on his LinkedIn page identified himself as director of district operations for Higgins, who represents Louisiana's 3rd congressional district. Prunty is a former St. Martin Parish deputy.
Prunty's arrest comes three days after the massage parlor arrests, which followed a 17-month investigation launched in response to numerous complaints from business owners and residents.
In Saturday's booking report, Prunty's address is listed as 200 block of Chimney Rock Boulevard in Lafayette. In the Feb. 13 arrests, Pingjuan Xia, 36, who was arrested for pandering, also listed her address as the 200 block of Chimney Rock Boulevard. Xia was arrested again Saturday and charged with prostitution by massage and massage parlor prohibited sexual conduct.
The case, Mowell said, is still under investigation.
Attempts to contact Prunty were not immediately successful.