A Minnetonka pair suspected of running a national underage sex trafficking ring from the shores of Lake Minnetonka to California and Hawaii, and concealing their crimes with a shell business, have been charged with several felonies.
Washington County prosecutors allege that Ricky Arlen Turner, 28, and Brittany Marie Harenza, 25, used the dating link on Backpage.com to advertise girls and women for prostitution. They used social media to lure females into the business.
Turner, who was charged with five felony counts including sex trafficking and racketeering, remained in jail Friday on $500,000 bond. Harenza, charged with racketeering and engaging in business to conceal criminal proceeds, was released on bail Thursday.
Police have found evidence that the pair may have operated in 14 states, according to an electronic trail uncovered with subpoenas served on Backpage.
Woodbury police detectives, who led the investigation, spent months obtaining search warrants and then combing through internet, phone, travel and business records to build their case.
“Early examination of the cellphone reveals a prolific amount of trafficking over a long period of time,” according to the criminal complaint.
Police uncovered more than 1,600 sex ads on Backpage associated with Harenza’s phone number. Detectives also conducted surveillance on the pair’s Lake Minnetonka home and at hotels across the Twin Cities, including in Woodbury and downtown Minneapolis.
Woodbury police declined to discuss specifics of the pending investigation. However, Woodbury Detective Paul Kroshus said several agencies — including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in St. Paul, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Oakdale and Cottage Grove — worked on the case.
Prosecutors allege the pair used a detached guesthouse next to their McKenzie Point Road residence for prostitution. They say that the pair registered a Woodbury-based shell company, called “Finesse the World and Co.,” with the Minnesota Secretary of State to conceal proceeds.
The pair also used social media to flaunt their lifestyle, the complaint said, posting photos of large amounts of cash and a photo of Turner with his BMW.
According to the complaint, officers found two Twin Cities high school girls in Turner’s car when they went to arrest him. One of the girls told police she was at a Chipotle in Wayzata when she met Turner, who told her he was a pimp and could reward her with money and cars if she worked for him. Turner spoke of taking her to another state where her age wouldn’t be a problem.
Turner, who referred to himself as “Pimp” and “Daddy” on social media, required girls and women to pay him as much as $2,000 to join the illegal enterprise and take instruction from him on the business, which he referred to as “choosing fees.”
Harenza, a sex worker whom police called Turner’s trusted female business partner, helped recruit new girls and explain to them the benefit of “choosing fees” via social media, the complaint said.
At one point she wrote: “It’s time to make the move to upgrade your life. Choosing fees matter. Nothing is for free my daddy definitely got a fee.”