A 29-year-old Brooklyn Center man has pleaded guilty to running an underage national sex trafficking ring from a Lake Minnetonka-area home, the Hennepin County attorney’s office announced Thursday.

Ricky Arlen Turner pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of sex trafficking and one count of promotion of prostitution. He previously was convicted in Washington County for racketeering and other crimes related to a 14-state underage sex trafficking ring that he and his girlfriend advertised on Backpage.com and chronicled on their personal Facebook pages, according to court records.

Turner, whom authorities called a “prolific” sex trafficker, was sentenced to eight years in prison, a term to run consecutively with the 14-year sentence he received in Washington County.

The guilty pleas were the result of investigations by Woodbury and Minnetonka police, as well as federal agencies. “This is the model we are using in our focus on sex-trafficking crimes,” County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a prepared statement. “People like Mr. Turner are mobile, so we are working across county lines with anyone who can help us bring these people to justice.”

A year ago, investigators noticed an advertisement with a woman in lingerie offering herself for commercial sex on Backpage.com. The telephone number was that of Brittany Harenza, 25. Woodbury police obtained records from Backpage.com showing that 1,600 ads from November 2015 to May 2017 had been associated with Harenza’s number

Harenza’s Facebook page led investigators to posts about Turner that indicated he was promoting the prostitution of several women, including Harenza. Turner and Harenza were living in a home at 2815 McKenzie Point in Wayzata. Police surveillance revealed they were receiving many visitors for short time periods, especially at a detached guesthouse, the complaint states.

Police also found two other women who worked for Turner. One of them described how Turner and Harenza approached her at a Minnetonka bus stop in November 2016 and told her how she could make money as a prostitute. Turner forced her to live at the Wayzata home and beat her if she tried to leave. He also took her to another state and forced her into sex work there, according to the complaint. She said she earned more than $100,000 in the four months she worked for Turner and was forced to turn over nearly all the money to him.

At his court hearing, Turner admitted to recruiting the young women, setting up their Backpage.com ads, trafficking them and taking most of the money they made.

Harenza was charged in Washington County with engaging in business to conceal criminal proceeds and racketeering. Her next court appearance is Feb. 8.


Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora