HUDSON - Authorities said a two-day sting last week led to the rescue of human trafficking victims and would-be prostitution customers in St. Croix County.

The operation was timed months in advance to coincide with the Super Bowl, occurring in Minneapolis - just a half hour’s drive from Hudson, where state, county and local authorities launched one arm of a two-pronged sting.

The sting, held between Feb. 1-2 at a Hudson hotel and at undisclosed “meet places” yielded five arrests and the recovery of two trafficking victims, Attorney General Brad Schimel said a news conference Friday at the St. Croix County Government Center.

Some of those suspects knowingly targeted children as young as 14, he said.

“By targeting the so-called johns, we can suppress the money-making arm of the traffic networks,” Schimel said. “For those people who purchase sex, you need to know law enforcement -- local, state and federal -- are coming after you.”

St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Cathy Borgschatz explained the operation began taking shape last summer after she and Sheriff Scott Knudson began discussing the local impact of human trafficking. That, she said, was when a special agent with the state justice department’s Division of Criminal Investigation reached out to propose a joint operation coinciding with the Super Bowl.

Days later, another state agent proposed an Internet Crimes Against Children operation that would run in tandem with the trafficking operation. Borgschatz said agencies from Hudson, River Falls and New Richmond - along with the Turningpoint shelter organization - pitched in.

“I know we have a lot of work to do to effectively address human trafficking and internet crimes against children,” Borgschatz said. “This is the beginning and I look forward to building on what was learned and what was accomplished last week.”

See next week’s print edition for more from the news conference.