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Continued: Guardian charged after disabled Woodbury teen allegedly sold for sex

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 4, 2013 - 9:50 PM

A Woodbury woman has been charged with neglecting a vulnerable adult after she allegedly dropped off a profoundly disabled 19-year-old woman -- who was in the suspect's care -- at locations where she was forced to have sex with numerous men last summer, court documents say.

Cheryl Ann Tchida, 50, is charged with a gross misdemeanor, and on Friday police said more arrests are possible.

The Ramsey County criminal complaint says Tchida was sole guardian and caretaker of the 19-year-old, whose identity isn't being published because she's an alleged sex assault victim. She has the IQ of a 5- or 6-year-old and cannot tell time or manage most of her daily activities.

Tchida dropped off the victim at a Roseville motel and later at an apartment in the 300 block of Dale Street on repeated occasions for nearly six weeks, though the younger woman kept telling her guardian that she was being forced to have sex with men she didn't know. She was impregnated last summer but doesn't know by whom, court papers say.

The case spotlights why Minnesota penalties should be strengthened against those who abuse vulnerable adults for sex-trafficking, said Rep. John Lesch, a St. Paul city prosecutor, who said he'll introduce such a measure this session. Lesch said he'll propose language changes that would enable judges to give enhanced penalties.

Guardianship questions

The case is raising concerns as well about the victim's guardianship.

Washington County had allowed Tchida to become guardian of the victim after she turned 18, even though Tchida was earlier convicted of neglecting a baby who was abused in her unlicensed day-care center.

The 19-year-old victim is now in a group home.

Wednesday, the St. Paul city attorney's office filed a complaint alleging this:

On Aug. 8, Tchida called police saying the teen had been repeatedly raped and forced into prostitution.

The victim told police that Tchida dropped her off at a Roseville motel on July 3 to "hang out" with a 17-year-old youth she'd met three days earlier. Older men also were in the motel room, and the victim allegedly was coerced into having sex with four of them.

In the room was Hassan Bahka Muhammad, a felon who served nearly six years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree assault in 2000 in Hennepin County.

The complaint says Muhammad used the victim's cellphone to set up a LiveLinks ad selling sex for $200. The victim told him "that she didn't want to do that but he threatened to hurt her if she refused."

After she had sex with five "customers" who came to the motel room, Muhammad sent a photo of the cash to Tchida. The victim called Tchida to come get her; Tchida did not.

The next morning, Muhammad drove the teen to his apartment in the 300 block of Dale Street and had sex with her. Then he drove her to meet Tchida for a ride home.

For several weeks, Tchida continued to drop off the victim at the apartment and a nearby sandwich shop.

Police found victim

One night, police found the victim running through a park near Arundel Street and Central Avenue. She told the officer she'd been at the Dale Street apartment when Muhammad's "nephew" and other men tried to coerce her into having sex. She was scared and unable to tell Tchida where to pick her up, so the officer gave Tchida directions.

Muhammad also told the teen to dress in a tank top, shorts and high-heeled sandals. She told him she did not want sex with other men, but he drove her to Minneapolis "and arranged for her to have sex with several different men for $200 each while he stood nearby and collected the money," the complaint says.

St. Paul police officer Heather Weykan, who is investigating the Tchida case, is among many vice officers who have told Lesch of increasing numbers of vulnerable adults targeted by sex traffickers. Her department and other law enforcers support his push for enhanced penalties, she said.

Weykan said St. Paul police are working closely with Ramsey County Sheriff's investigators and prosecutors in early steps in the Tchida case.

"I can't talk about it, but it is very ugly," she said.

Tchida has faced other neglect allegations.

In June 2007, a 6-month-old girl suffered head trauma and other injuries in Tchida's home day care in the 7100 block of Windgate Road in Woodbury.

Tchida had lied and told the baby's parents that her day care was licensed. Woodbury police interviewed other children who described times when Tchida pulled the baby's hair, or yelled and shook her.

Tchida pleaded guilty and in August 2008 was sentenced to 30 days on home monitoring and one year on probation.

On Oct. 12, officials with Washington County Community Services went to court to remove the victim from Tchida's care and place her in a licensed group home.

In her original guardianship petition, signed Oct. 22, 2011, Tchida acknowledged the woman "is vulnerable to exploitation by others and requires 24 hours supervision to remain safe at home and in community."

Cindy Rupp, division manager for Washington County Community Services, said Community Services isn't always notified when someone seeks guardianship but couldn't provide further details in this case on Friday.

Joy Powell • 651-925-5038

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