Former Sunflower CEO pleads not guilty to child prostitution

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Michael Gilliland By Alicia Barron Michael Gilliland By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX -- The former CEO of a supermarket chain who was busted in a child prostitution sting pleaded not guilty Thursday morning.

In February, Phoenix police officers arrested Michael Gilliland, 52, at a hotel where they claim he went to meet an underage girl to pay her to have sex with him.

The "girl" turned out to be an undercover officer.

"A lot of the communication was online so it was apparent and it was obvious, it would've been obvious to this suspect, that the person he was going to go meet was in fact a minor," said Sgt. Steve Martos with the Phoenix Police Department.

Gilliland faces one count of felony child prostitution. He is out of jail on bond.

His next court date is scheduled for April 21.

Gilliland was one of eight people arrested in the sting.

Gilliland founded Wild Oats Market and sold it to Whole Foods then started Sunflower Farmers Market. He resigned from his position as Sunflower CEO after his arrest.