Six people are facing felony charges following their arrests for attempting to solicit minors for sex or for trafficking victims.
Investigators with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force (EMSTTF) and the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force conducted an operation July 27-28 in Stillwater and St. Paul. During the operation, suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents and investigators who posed as minors or as sex buyers. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter.
“Coordinating these efforts with the MNHITF and the EMSTTF is a vital component in combating human trafficking in our state. Trafficking is a demand-based crime, so identifying the buyers can be just as important as identifying the traffickers. These buyers typically have done this before and this time they got caught,” said Molly Berhow, commander of the TRUST Task Force. “We’ve tried to give these victims the chance to be heard and we give them the choice to receive services if they want. At the very least we can identify victims and give them a choice they’ve likely never had before.”
Suspects were booked into the Washington or Ramsey county jails. A list of arrestees is available here. All have been charged or will be charged in the coming days.
“We are proud to be part of a team that does such important work for victims of sex trafficking in our community,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Five people were booked on probable cause felony solicitation of a minor under 18 years of age for prostitution. One person was booked on probable cause promotion of prostitution, sex trafficking. Four victims were recovered from trafficking situations.
“While this operation is over, our work goes on,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “We will continue to pursue and arrest these criminals who exploit and victimize our children for sex.”
Many additional agencies lent resources to this enforcement effort including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Washington and Ramsey County attorney’s offices.
“HSI and our law enforcement partners take our mission to recover victims and hold sex traffickers, who have little concern for the harm they do, accountable for their crimes,” said Jamie Holt, acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI St. Paul. I’m extremely proud of the agents, officers and victim support specialists who work these cases. Their professionalism and compassion is beyond reproach and contributes greatly to reducing these types of crimes in our community.”
Victim advocate organization Breaking Free also provided services during victim recoveries.
“These arrests demonstrate that the market for juvenile commercial sex is not confined to limited segments of society,” said Washington County Attorney Kevin Magnuson. “The buyers come from all walks of life and each are responsible for the tremendous harm to the victims, their families and the public that sex trafficking causes.”
The Minnesota Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force (MNHTITF) provides statewide law enforcement response for the Human Trafficking National Hotline. Victims can get help by calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or send the text HELP to 233733.
“This operation is a direct result of Minnesota law enforcement’s commitment to keeping our most vulnerable population safe — our children,” said Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry. “I’m proud to be a part of this dedicated community who continue to fight against the dark reality of human trafficking in our own backyard.”
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of being trafficked, call 911. To report a suspected trafficking situation, call the BCA at 877-996-6222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.