HASTINGS, Minn. (KMSP) - As a result of an undercover anti-sex trafficking operation called Operation Guardian Angel, six men have been charged with soliciting teen girls for sex in Hastings, Minn.
On Sept. 10, investigators posted ads on Backpage.com and Craigslist.com offering sex for money. Potential customers were told the girls were just 17 and 15 years old, yet more than a half dozen men still showed up at the County Inn hotel anyway. Officers immediately arrested the suspects who knocked on their door.
The initiative was coordinated by Sgt. Grant Snyder, Juvenile Trafficking Investigator with the Minneapolis Police Department.
"We could have had any person set up and do what we did, the real thing. It could be going on right under our noses and not even know about it," Hastings Police Chief Bryan Schafer said.
According to Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie, the use of cell phones and other technology has become a commonplace for law enforcement to gather evidence from those that use it to facilitate sex trafficking crimes. In this case, undercover officers used the Internet, cell phones, and email to communicate with the suspects.
So far, 50 people have been arrested in Operation Guardian Angel in several communities across the state including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Woodbury, Rochester and Duluth. Based on statistics alone, Hastings Police Chief Bryan Schafer said he knows human trafficking is a large issue in Dakota County.
“As our understanding of the tragic world of juvenile sex trafficking evolved, along with our recognition of the many components of this serious issue, we are confronted with an undeniable admission: sex trafficking is a demand driven problem,” the Dakota County Attorney’s Office stated. “Without demand, or buyers of commercial sex, the individuals willing to sell another person for sex, would fail to generate the desired profit, and ultimately collapse.”
Hastings hotel suspects, charges
Phengie Lee, 24, of Minneapolis, Minn.: Charged with one count of hiring an underage prostitute (16 to 17 years old)
Joshua Wood, 39, of Rosemount, Minn.: Charged with two counts of hiring underage prostitutes (16 to 17 years old and 13 to 15 years old)
Dallas Lloyd, 29, of of Zimmerman, Minn.: Charged with two counts of hiring underage prostitutes (16 to 17 years old and 13 to 15 years old), and possession of controlled substance (tested as methamphetamine)
Christopher Lauyans, 33, of Maplewood, Minn.: Charged with hiring underage prostitute (13 to 15 years old)
Jason Slattum, 36, of Story City, Iowa.: Charged with two counts of hiring underage prostitutes (16 to 17 years old and 13 to 15 years old)
Kerry Mausolf, 38, of Cottage Grove, Minn.: Charged with hiring underage prostitute (13 to 15 years old)