A man has been charged after prosecutors say he forced a 17-year-old girl to perform sex acts for money after she was kicked out of her mother's house.
Damon DiMartino, 40, of St. Paul, was charged Monday with promoting prostitution of a minor, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said in a news release. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
This is the first person to be charged following Orput's announcement last week that the county had formed a coalition to fight sex trafficking and help victims.
“We pledged last week to come down hard on those individuals who traffic our youth and rob them of their innocence. We will do that here. I sincerely hope that those traffickers will hear this message and know that Washington County carries a big stick," Orput said in the release.
According to the criminal complaint, police investigating a domestic disturbance call discovered the 17-year-old was being prostituted, the news release says. The complaint alleges in at least one incident DiMartino – her "pimp" – drove her to a hotel in St. Paul where she performed two types of sexual acts.
She was paid $250 for the encounter, but she was allowed to keep just $40, the release notes.
The Pioneer Press says the victim, who is now 18, had been kicked out of her house and was living with friends when she met DiMartino, who said if she wanted to borrow money she had to "work for it."
She started by stripping on party buses, before he began arranging for her to have sex for money, the paper notes.
She told investigators she believed she was his property, KSTP reprots.
Court records show DiMartino has a long criminal history that includes criminal sexual conduct convictions in 1999 and 2013, as well as several traffic violations.
Washington County now has three active underage prostitution cases, Orput told the Star Tribune.