Police recently took out multiple ads in the adult services section of two classifieds websites, resulting in 11 arrests in Woodbury during the past week.
Eighteen men - including residents of Woodbury, St. Paul Park and Cottage Grove, as well as Hudson, Wis. - were accused after multiple prostitution stings, one of which occurred last Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 21-22, at a Woodbury gas station, the largest of which took place Sept. 17 at the Red Roof Inn in Woodbury, and the first of which occurred more than a year ago.
Woodbury Public Safety and Washington County won’t stop there, County Attorney Pete Orput said last Friday. “Got three more yesterday. We thought we had a problem and we’re dealing with it.”
Late last week, Chad Allen Schroeder, 43, of Minneapolis was charged with hiring a minor to engage in sexual conduct after he was arrested at a local gas station, which was unnamed in the court complaint but located along Eagle Creek Lane according to Washington County jail records.
Another man was arrested during the weekend after the Red Roof Inn sting, according to Michelle Okada, Woodbury Public Safety public information officer. The names of the most recent arrestees were not made public, as they await charges, Orput said.
Six of the remaining 13 men charged after the prostitution sting at the Red Roof Inn made recent appearances in Washington County District Court.
Men from Cottage Grove, Hudson, Wis., St. Paul Park and Woodbury were also among those charged` Friday, Sept. 18.
Charged with engagement in prostitution of a 16- or 17-year-old were: Kevin Michael Aylward, 59, of Burnsville; Gordon Patrick Jones, 33, of Clayton, Wis.; and Kyle Michael Segermark, 21, of Gem Lake.
Charged with hiring a minor to engage in sexual conduct were: Nathan John Mravinc, 35, of Hudson, Wis.; Luis Angel Ponce, 20, of Cottage Grove; and Paul Dean Skaggs, 50, of Martha, Ky.
In regard to a 2014 sting at the Red Roof Inn, involving similar Craiglist.com and Backpage.com ads, seven men were charged with agreeing to hire a 14-year-old to engage in sexual conduct, including: Benjamin Charles Beery, 37, of Mounds View; Brent Allen Fredrickson, 38, of Eagan; Christopher Scott Henderson, 29, of Champlin; Ryan Brook Meredith, 33, of Woodbury; Brian Patrick O’Boyle, 34, of St. Paul Park; Michael Leonard Tallman, 30, of Coon Rapids; Ian Laurence Walford, 35, of Lake Elmo.
Seven men - Aylward, Jones, Mravinc, Ponce, Schroeder, Segermark and Skaggs - were in custody at the Washington County jail in Stillwater, as of Wednesday, Sept. 23.
Six arrests took place during a sting on Thursday, Sept. 17, according to the Washington County jail’s daily booking report: Jones at 1:07 p.m.; Skaggs at 2:30 p.m.; Aylward at 2:45 p.m.; Ponce at 2:45 p.m.; Segermark at 5:30 p.m.; and Mravinc at 7 p.m. All of Sept. 17 arrests took place at the Red Roof Inn.
Schroeder’s arrest occurred at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Seven of the men were arrested but never booked, according to jail staff and police.
Woodbury Public Safety worked with Homeland Security, as well as the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and Hennepin and Washington County sheriff’s offices, to conduct an Internet-based sting, targeting juvenile child exploitation and human trafficking.
Law enforcement is not picking on the Red Roof Inn at all, Orput said. There are 80-some hotels in the county and the county attorney and police are working on a comprehensive program that asks for business participation in curtailing prostitution operations.
“It saddens me greatly,” Orput said. “We just threw the rod out in the water and we forgot to bait the hook and we already caught a northern. And we’re getting more. I’m hungry.”
The priority is on protecting children, Orput said. “You want to decrease demand, decrease supply and you want all the help you can get.
“That’s led us to some phenomenal cases.”
According to the complaints:
Those who replied to law enforcement’s Backpage ads exchanged text messages with an undercover police officer decoy.
Officers placed an ad on the male escort section of Backpage describing a young man and his genitals and stating: “Rainy day blues so I’m waiting for fun guys.”
On Sept. 21, Schroeder responded to the ad with a text message, inquiring about paying for sex. Upon being told he was texting with a 16-year-old, Schroeder said he didn’t “mess with minors,” but ultimately agreed to meet and pay $75 to give oral sex to the minor.
Woodbury police arrested Schroeder at the gas pump after he was recognized from his Facebook page. In his possession were $80 in cash and a cell phone used to communicate with the undercover officer.
Another recent ad on Backpage said: “Bring yur fanesies and $$$$ make me smile and we’ll make you shivver. Two young naughty girls who havve nothing better to do today.”
This ad drew a number of respondents, and arrests were made at regular intervals throughout the day of Sept. 17.
Believing that the girls in the ad were ages 15 and 17, Skaggs visited the hotel and agreed to meet the 17-year-old for sex at a rate of $180 a half-hour with both girls or $120 a half-hour with one of them. He was in Minnesota for work and had heard his coworkers talking about paying for sex from the classifieds and decided to try it.
Mravinc knocked on the hotel room door, providing the code word “Skittles,” and was arrested. He had negotiated the purchase of a sex act for $80, urging the decoy, who he thought was a 17-year-old girl, to take a lowered fee “because something is better than nothing,” he said. Mravinc had $80 when he was arrested.
After being told the ages of the girls, Aylward negotiated $200 for sex with both of them, without a condom. He asked to bring them to his home in Burnsville, the decoy agreed but asked him to pick them up at the hotel, and when he arrived he was arrested.
Ponce wanted a so-called car date, with a condom, for $75 a half-hour. He ran from police when confronted, but when apprehended admitted to asking to exchange money for sex in a car. Ponce had been told the age of the girls.
Segermark agreed to pay $125 a half-hour for both girls, and when asked if he was ready stated: “God yes. It’s been awhile.” He stopped at a gas station to buy a box of condoms and brought $194 to the hotel room. The undercover officer had told Segermark the girls were 15 and 17. He told a detective that the police did a good job of portraying a 17-year-old girl.
The undercover officer offered Jones oral sex and “straight” sex - “nothing else so don’t ask.” He said the code word at the door, and showed up with $8,055 in cash.
The investigation has been ongoing since 2014.
On Aug. 19, 2014, Fredrickson was arrested at the Red Roof Inn after responding to a Craiglist ad and expected to share the cost of a $60-a-night room in exchange for sex with a 32-year-old and fondling of her deaf daughter. Fredrickson believed he was about to shower with and receive oral sex from the daughter, age 14.
On the same day, Meredith brought two condoms and a bottle of personal lubricant liquid to the hotel, where after responding to the Craiglist ad, he had agreed to engage in sexual relations with the mother and daughter. He planned to split the cost of the room in exchange for sex. Police had to chase him before he was arrested.
That day, O’Boyle came to the same room looking to pay $80 for a half-hour with two girls, who he believed to be ages 14 and 15. He had responded to a Backpage ad that said: “Let me be your cheerleader … 2 gurlz special today! Both hottt and young, ready to be your best reason to skip work.”
On Oct. 22, 2014, Walford arranged to pay for sex with two girls he believed to be ages 14 and 15. He told officers he “hypothetically” responded to a Backpage ad, which offered: “Come and be the QB for this team YEAH!” This was the only ad to which he received a response. Walford added that it’s “hypothetically” fair to say that even though a person may not be seeking out sex with a 14-year-old and 15-year-old that maybe a person would move forward with it because they have needs and the underage girls are all they have to work with.
On the same day, Beery responded to a Craiglist ad and communicated with an undercover officer through email, text messaging and live voice. He agreed to pay $100 to have sex with a 32-year-old woman and her 14-year-old daughter. When Beery arrived at the Red Roof Inn, he was arrested with $100 and a cell phone showing intent to have sexual contact with a minor.
That day, Henderson replied to the ad and showed up at the Red Roof Inn, only to be arrested. Communications between the man and the undercover officer made it clear that sexual interaction was to take place between the man and the 14-year-old.
Also on Oct. 22, 2014, via Craiglist, Tallman arranged by email to pay $75 for sex with the daughter or $100 for sex with both the mother and daughter. He then text messaged an undercover officer he thought was the 14-year-old, telling her he would teach her about sex and asking what he could bring her. She answered: “Skittles.” Tallman was arrested upon arrival at the hotel. He came bearing condoms, lubricant and Skittles.
Unrelated to Woodbury’s sex-with-minors sting, the Lake Elmo city attorney expects to charge a woman with prostitution.
As of last Friday, charges against a woman, Yuanfen Liu, were pending with Lake Elmo City Attorney Dave Snyder’s office. Liu is expected to face one count of prostitution in a public place, a gross misdemeanor, Snyder said.
Liu’s case is not part of a larger sting operation, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said. Liu operates a massage parlor, he said.
But the county’s jail logs showed Liu was arrested at 1:14 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in downtown Lake Elmo, just after Woodbury police made their first arrest of the day at the Red Roof Inn sting.
The timing was pure coincidence, Orput said.