Charges say the two men advertised the girls on the Backpage.com website and kept them at an Eagan hotel.
Giorgio J. Baymon, 25, and Brandon D. Barnes, 24, were each arrested and charged in Ramsey County District Court with sex trafficking of minors, inducing minors for prostitution and promotion of prostitution of minors.
According to the charges, one of the girls, 17, was picked up at school by Baymon and Barnes and taken to the Eagan hotel with the other girl, who was 15 at the time and a runaway. While there for several days in early May, the two girls had sex with two men who answered the Backpage.com ad and with a friend of the defendants who gave the men marijuana as payment, the criminal complaint read.
Baymon was arrested on June 13 in an unrelated case. Police confiscated his cellphone, which included the explicit photos of the 15-year-old that were used in the Backpage.com ad, according to the complaint.
Barnes, seen on video paying the Eagan hotel bill, told police that he didn't know what was going on in the room, the charges said. The complaint added, however, that the 15-year-old girl said both Baymon and Barnes were at the hotel with the girls and armed.
Also charged in the case last month was one of the men who answered the website ad and allegedly had sex with the girls. Mickey A. Cupkie, 37, of Elko, admitted using his cellphone while at work in St. Paul to look up the girls on Backpage.com, according to charges against him.
The case involving the two girls prompted Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to echo the growing chorus nationally that is demanding that Village Voice Media, Backpage.com's owner, shut down the website's adult section because it's being used "as a platform to traffic minors for sex."
Last 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 2008, Baymon was sentenced to three years in prison for shooting at a Ramsey County sheriff's deputy who was working off-duty at a Maplewood nightclub.
Also on Friday, a Hennepin County jury convicted Edward Andre Washington of two counts of promotion of prostitution/sex trafficking and one count of kidnapping for abducting an 18-year-old woman from Duluth, setting up ads on Backpage and forcing her into prostitution in Minneapolis and Illinois. The victim was only able to escape when she was left alone in a hotel room.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said of that case, "This is disgusting. Far too many young women are being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. As a society, we owe them something better."
Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482