An undercover sting designed to catch sex traffickers and pedophiles during the Super Bowl festivities in Minnesota netted more than 40 arrests.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed the results of its undercover operation that ran between Jan. 26 and Feb. 3.
- 36 people were booked on probable cause felony solicitation of a minor.
- 7 people were booked on probable cause sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution.
- 14 women were rescued from trafficking situations.
It formed part of its wider and ongoing efforts to combat trafficking in Minnesota through the BCA-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force operations.
The 100,000-plus visitors to the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl was expected to bring an increased number of trafficking opportunities, and undercover agents were hard at work trying to find offenders responsible.
Most of those arrested, however, are from the Twin Cities, the BCA says. They now face possible felony charges.
How did they do it?
Undercover agents and investigators used multiple social media platforms to chat with suspects during the sting – sometimes posing as children.
They would then arrange to meet them for an encounter, at which point they'd arrest them.
This happened to a 33-year-old Super Bowl Live employee, who was arrested upon arriving at a meeting where he thought he'd be able to molest two minors.
All of those arrested in the sting have been booked into the Ramsey, Scott or Washington County jails and are awaiting charges.
The Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force included investigators from the Anoka County Sheriff's Office, St. Paul and Minneapolis police, the BCA, Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.
The sting was part of the ongoing work of the Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force. It is led by the BCA and includes investigators from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
"Law enforcement, across federal, state and local agencies, work collaboratively on a daily basis to thwart this horrific crime," Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of HSI St. Paul said in a press release.
"HSI and its partners worked tirelessly throughout Super Bowl 52, and the associated events, to identify and apprehend numerous violators and rescue victims."
"Now that the Super Bowl is past, these arrests should serve as a stark reminder that what drives the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people is the demand. Notably, as shown by these arrests, the demand is a local problem and involves men from our own community who want to exploit very young girls and boys," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi added.