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Son of Hennepin County Sheriff is facing child porn and solicitation charges

Ryan Stanek is accused of trying to arrange meetings for sex with 13- and 14-year-old girls.
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The son of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has been charged with four child sex crimes.

The charges, issued in Blue Earth County District Court, accuse 24-year-old Ryan Stanek of attempting to solicit a 13-year-old girl for sex, as well as possession of child pornography.

Authorities began building a case against Ryan Stanek after the father of a young adult woman who was communicating with Stanek complained, according to the charges. That led to an undercover operation, and eventually his arrest.

In a statement sent to FOX 9 on Wednesday, Sheriff Stanek said his son is "accountable for his own actions," but "as parents we will continue to assist him to do what we can to help guide him.

"Like all parents, we love our son and are providing him the support that we hope will help him deal with the challenges in his life," he added.

According to the charges:

Ryan Stanek asked the woman he was texting with to find other girls aged between 8 and 17 and send him nude pictures of them. He then demanded she create a social media profile stating her age was 17, which would allow her to contact children.

Among the texts sent to the woman from Stanek was one saying: "I want a girl who's 8 to 12 y.o," and when asked to clarify he replied: "A young girl to play with you and me," before asking if she had any neighbors or cousins of that age.

She sent a picture of her 14-year-old cousin, and Stanek said he wanted to have sex with her. It was at this point that police got involved, taking over control of the woman's cellphone and proceeding undercover.

Stanek asked to arrange a meet-up with another girl, who was 13 years old, in Mankato. He said via text that "we can find a quiet area and play in my truck," adding that he wanted "full sex."

Still undercover, the officer arranged the meeting with Stanek while posing as the 13-year-old girl on a separate phone. When Stanek arrived on May 19, police found his truck and arrested him.

Searching Stanek's phone, investigators found several internet searches for underage children, and also found evidence he had viewed pictures of nude children as young as 3 years old through social media apps.

The Star Tribune notes the day after his son was arrested, Sheriff Rich Stanek announced he was running for re-election – putting an end to speculation he might run for governor.

Stanek faces four charges, two relating to solicitation of a child, one for engaging in communications describing sexual contact with a child, and one for child porn possession.

The scope of child pornography

The Department of Justice says child pornography was almost wiped out in the 1980s thanks to some successful prevention campaigns. But the explosion of the internet – which has provided fast, easy, anonymous methods to transfer files – has once again made it a widespread issue.

In 2016, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says it received 8.2 million reports to its cyber tipline, with most regarding images of possible child sexual abuse, reports of “sextortion,” child sex trafficking and child sexual molestation.

One study by the group Thorn found three out of every 10 searches on the eDonkey p2p network relate to child pornography.

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