A widespread investigation conducted over four days during the Final Four netted 58 people for attempting to solicit children for sex or for trafficking, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Of those arrested, eight of the people were from out of state, said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.
Of the arrests, 47 came as part of a sting operation, luring individuals to solicit sex with children under the age of 16. Suspects chatted on several social media platforms with undercover agents who posed as minors or as sex buyers and then were arrested when they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter.
Another 11 people were booked on probable cause of sex trafficking and promotion of prostitution. Some 28 people were rescued from trafficking situations, including one minor.
“It really illustrates that when law enforcement works collaboratively we can work to drive down this type of crime, and that Minnesota does not tolerate trafficking in the state,” Evans said in an interview.
The operation was conducted by 33 criminal justice agencies and was part of the work of the Human Trafficking Investigations Task Force led by the BCA, which includes investigators from the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Buffalo police departments, the Anoka and Hennepin County sheriff’s offices, Homeland Security Investigations and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
“The results of the Final Four human trafficking operation remind us that we must continue to identify and aid the victims, arrest and prosecute the offenders, and continue to educate the public on ways to assist law enforcement in the prevention of human trafficking,” Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts said in a statement.
Evans said he was not surprised that most of those arrested were from Minnesota, noting previous local undercover prostitution operations conducted when there were national events netted mostly local people. He said authorities did not believe that there was a large influx of people from elsewhere who come to national sporting events to solicit prostitutes. Of the out-of-state arrests, two listed addresses in Wisconsin, with one each from Tennessee, New York, Texas, Connecticut, Ecuador and Guyana.
He said undercover agents advertised on a number of internet sites, posing as children 15 or under, soliciting sex. He said the individuals who answered the ads were then told to meet at a hotel, apartment or house, and when they showed up, they were arrested.
Evans said most of the traffickers were held while most of those arrested in the stings were booked and released, although some were held for other reasons, such as outstanding warrants, or were in the possession of illegal drugs.
Among the arrested was Adrian Cortez Edwards, 36, of Milwaukee, who was charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count of engaging in sex trafficking of an individual.
According to court documents, Edwards is accused of using a social media site to arrange for a woman to have commercial sex with an undercover officer.
The woman, 21, was met by officers at a hotel room and “was offered recovery services and interviewed.” Edwards was arrested and his vehicle searched. Authorities found four cellphones, one of which listed the same number as the one used in the soliciting of sex with the undercover officer. The document said that “a large amount of messages relating to commercial sex were observed in the SMS messages.”
Ryan Burt, 29 of Rochester, was arrested Sunday on one count of engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with child. A criminal complaint said that Burt contacted what he thought was a 14-year-old girl named “Brittany,” sent her a nude picture and went to an apartment building to have sex with her in Bloomington, where he was arrested. “Records indicated that the defendant’s account also communicated with an undercover officer portraying themselves as an underage girl during a Super Bowl sting operation,” the police complaint said.
Also charged was Niklas Heine, 29, of Plymouth, charged with soliciting a woman believed to be 13 to 16 years old for sex. Heine responded to an ad placed by undercover authorities, and conducted a text conversation with a 15-year-old girl. He agreed to pay her $150 for sex and exchanged dozens of texts with an undercover agent, before agreeing to meet her at a hotel in Brooklyn Park. He went to the designated room and was arrested.