Seven people have been charged with sex trafficking-related crimes after being caught seeking sex with minors.
The East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force conducted a "covert operation" on June 2 as part of an effort to decrease the demand for commercial sex online, a Monday news release from Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said.
The operation involved law enforcement posting an ad on known commercial sex websites and social media apps using "decoy" photos of an undercover officer who looks underage, the criminal complaints state. When someone contacted the number on the ad, the undercover officer would pose as a 15-year-old girl and chat with them via text, confirming with the suspect the sex act and how much they'd pay.
The officer would then tell the suspect to meet her at an apartment in Oakdale, giving them instructions how to get in. In some instances, the officer would ask the suspect to bring the alcoholic seltzer White Claw with them.
When the suspect knocked on the apartment door, they were arrested. Police would confirm the person at the door was the same person who texted the ad by sending another text to their phone.
The release noted the number of men who contacted the ad "surprised even the most seasoned sex trafficking detectives."
“The demand for juvenile exploitation still is prevalent and pervasive in our communities. The prolific level of response revived by law enforcement illustrates the need to continue to focusing proactively to eradicate sex trafficking," Imran Ali, assistant division chief, said in a news release. "As many of our children are now on summer break, it is imperative that parents continue to remain vigilant in protecting their children from the dangers that exist online."
The following people have been charged:
- Robert Charles Engvall, 52, of Elk River, is charged with prostitution of a child ages 13-16, a felony. According to the criminal complaint, Engvall texted with the undercover officer, seeking to have sex with the girl without a condom for $250. When Engvall arrived at the Oakdale apartment, he had a cell phone and $251 on him.
- Michael Joseph Fiedler, 48, of St. Paul, is charged with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child, a felony. According to the charges, Fiedler replied to a post on "Whisper" and texted with an undercover officer posing as a 21-year-old woman about having sex with the woman's 15-year-old niece. He then arrived at the Oakdale apartment with two cases of White Claw, a phone and a condom.
- Naveen Todd Fitterer, 33, of Lakeville, is charged with prostitution of a child ages 13-16, a felony. He is accused of texting the number on an ad and agreed to pay $200 an hour for sex with a 15-year-old. When he got to the Oakdale apartment, he was arrested. He had $250 with him.
- German Iban Galicia, 33, of Minneapolis, is charged with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child. Charges say he responded to an ad on "MeetMe" and discussed with the undercover investigator about meeting up to have sex. When he arrived at the Oakdale apartment building and asked the undercover officer to come outside, she did and waved before going back inside. Galicia then went to the building's buzzer but left the building without going to the apartment. He was then arrested.
- Joshua Emanuel Hickerson, 27, of Anoka, is charged with prostitution of a child ages 13-16, a felony. Charges say he responded to an ad and agreed to pay $200 for an hour with the undercover officer posing as a child. When Hickerson got to the Oakdale apartment, he was arrested. He had $250 with him.
- Antonio Diangelo Silva, 27, of St. Paul Park, is charged with prostitution of a child ages 13-16, a felony. Charges say he responded to the ad, saying he was fine with the undercover officer's "age," and agreed to pay $150 for a "qv" or "quick visit" of 30 minutes or less. When Silva arrived at the apartment, he was arrested. He had $140 and the 12-pack of White Claw the officer asked him to bring.
- Jason Richard Weidner, 38, of North St. Paul, is charged with prostitution of a child ages 13-16, a felony. He is accused of responding to an ad saying he'd pay $200 for an hour of sex with the undercover officer. When he arrived at the apartment, he was arrested. He had with him $200, three condoms and a cell phone.
The task force is comprised of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the Washington County Attorney's Office, the Woodbury Police Department, the Oakdale Police Department, and investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The Cottage Grove Police Department assisted law enforcement in the June 2 operation.
The aforementioned cases will be prosecuted by Scott Haldeman, who was newly assigned prosecutor in the task force and director of the task force.