Elko man paid minors for sex, charges allege

Session with two girls linked to a Backpage.com listing.

An Elko man who reportedly served in the military in Kuwait and Iraq was charged Thursday with four counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor after allegedly arranging and paying for sex with two teenage girls in Eagan.

Mickey A. Cupkie, 36, admitted to using his smartphone while at work in St. Paul to look up the 16- and 17-year-old girls through a classified advertising website, Backpage.com, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.

After negotiating a sex-for-money deal via text message, Cupkie then allegedly went to an Eagan hotel on May 9 to have sex with the girls -- one of whom was a runaway being tracked by a Minneapolis police sergeant who suspected she was being forced to prostitute herself.

Using cellphone records and hotel surveillance video, police Sgt. Grant Snyder later identified Cupkie as one of three males who responded that day to the two girls' Backpage ad. On Tuesday, Cupkie was arrested, and when asked if he had paid $200 to the girls said, "Probably," the charges say.

He allegedly told the girls that "he believed they were too young to be engaged in prostitution," the complaint states.

On Thursday, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi cited the Cupkie case as another example of Backpage being used "as a platform to traffic minors for sex." He renewed his call for site owner Village Voice Media to shut down the website's adult section.

Earlier this month, Liz McDougall, general counsel to Village Voice Media, told the Star Tribune that Backpage did not intend to "make a single penny off of this abhorrent activity," and had been monitoring the site, cooperating with law enforcement and working with anti-trafficking groups "to find effective, workable solutions."

In the same article, Snyder was quoted as saying that all of the more than 20 child sex-trafficking cases he had worked on this year had ties to Backpage.

His investigation of the Eagan case revealed that both girls had been forced into prostitution, the charges say.

Cupkie, in an interview with authorities, allegedly admitted that the 16-year-old performed oral sex on him and that he performed oral sex on her. His activities with the 17-year-old were less clear. But he is alleged to have stated that she had touched him sexually and was at least partially unclothed, the charges say.

Two years ago, Cupkie was the subject of a profile on the U.S. Army website. The story, which also noted that Cupkie's wife had served with an Army Reserve unit, said that he been deployed to Kuwait and Iraq during the previous year with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The website LinkedIn called him a budget analyst for the Minnesota Army National Guard as of June 2009.

Maj. Kristen Auge, deputy director of public affairs for the Minnesota National Guard, said that Cupkie was not a current member of the Minnesota Army National Guard. She could not confirm that he was a former member.

Cupkie is scheduled to make his first court appearance with an attorney on July 5.

Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. Anthony Lonetree • 612-875-0041

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