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Man faces more charges in Lake Minnetonka sex trafficking operation

He's been charged in both Washington and Hennepin counties.

A Brooklyn Center man is facing more charges for a sex trafficking operation he's accused of running out of a Lake Minnetonka home.

Ricky Arlen Turner, 28, is accused of trafficking at least 35 women through ads on Backpage.com between November 2015 and May 15, 2017, according to charges filed Thursday.

“Trafficking young women into the sex trade is reprehensible,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a news release Friday. “County attorneys around the state are working harder to prosecute them. In the case of Mr. Turner, we are cooperating with the Washington County Attorney, who also has brought charges against him.”

Turner was arrested back in May at the Wayzata home along with his "wife," 25-year-old Brittany Marie Harenza, KSTP reported. They were both charged in Washington County with sex trafficking-related crimes, the release says.

According to the criminal complaint:

Police started looking into Turner and Harenza back in January when investigators discovered an ad on Backpage.com.

The phone number associated with the ad belonged to Harenza, and through an investigation police discovered that number was connected to 1,600 ads that involved more than 35 women. An investigation also uncovered a Facebook page on Harenza, which led investigators to Turner.

Police learned Turner's address in Wayzata, and through surveillance discovered a lot of people were visiting the house for short periods of time – an indication of possible prostitution activity.

Investigators talked with two victims. One of them told police Turner and Harenza approached her at a bus stop back in November and told her she could make a lot of money as a prostitute. The victim said Turner forced her to live at the Wayzata home, and he'd beat her if she tried to leave.

The victim said she earned more than $100,000 in the four months she worked for Turner, but she was forced to turn almost all of it over to him.

Turner was charged in Hennepin County Thursday with two counts of sex trafficking and two counts of promoting prostitution.

Harenza has not been charged in Hennepin County. When asked whether the office plans to charge her, spokesperson Chuck Laszewski told GoMN: "All I can say is that the investigation continues."

Sex trafficking in Minnesota

The Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force says the demand for commercial sex drives prostitution and human sex trafficking. (Prostitution, under Minnesota state law, means hiring or agreeing to hire someone for sex, while human trafficking means aiding in the prostitution of someone.)

Because prostitution and sex trafficking are closely related, statistics about the prevalence of these crimes are often lumped together. Estimates show that 8,000 to 12,000 people are involved in prostitution or sex trafficking every day in Minnesota, a 2009 fact sheet from the Advocates of Human Rights shows.

According to the most recent report to the Minnesota Legislature, here’s the number of people who were charged with prostitution-related crimes between 2007 and 2013:

Minnesota has a Safe Harbor Law, which protects people under the age of 24 who engage in prostitution – they’re treated as victims instead of criminals.

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