MINNETONKA, Minn. (KMSP) - A months-long investigation culminating with a house raid in one of Minnesota’s richest ZIP codes this week revealed an extensive, multi-state prostitution ring run through sales site Backpage.com, according to a criminal complaint.
The couple living in the house on McKenzie Point Road was charged with racketeering, concealing criminal proceeds and prostitution Thursday after officers seized computers, ledgers and documents outlining their business, which at one point was even a registered corporation in Minnesota.
Detectives traced a phone number on Backpage to 25-year-old Brittany Harenza, identifying her trafficker as Ricky Turner Jr. through their multiple Facebook posts together. The duo oftentimes poses together in pictures and videos--referring to each other as “King Finesse” and “Finesse Bunnie”--with Turner oftentimes referring to himself as a “pimp.”
The criminal complaint released Thursday outlines the months-long law enforcement investigation into what they believe is a multi-state enterprise, featuring conspicuous social media posts and up to 35 women in 14 states.
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Woodbury Police detectives found the first ad in January, soon after Backpage shut down its notorious “escorts” section. Instead of shutting down most illicit business on the site, experts say, this simply shifted prostitution to the “dating” section.
The officer flagged a suspicious post accompanied by a woman’s image, along with a phone number later traced back to Harenza.
Investigators requested a subpoena from Backpage for all sex advertisements posted by that user, returning over a thousand ads that had been placed over the past year depicting the images of as many as 35 different women in 14 different states, including Minnesota, California, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Utah, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas and Florida.
The phone number listed in the original ad was connected to Harenza’s Facebook account, while the email associated with the account was connected to Turner’s. Another subpoena revealed the Comcast IP address used to post the ad was registered to 2815 Mckenzie Point Road where they both lived.
Armed with that information, detectives began to put together their case.
Sweeps of the couple’s Facebook accounts found extensive postings promoting prostitution, flaunting large sums of money and specific references to each other. Both users also featured other women police believe were being trafficked as well.
The criminal complaint identifies Harenza as a “bottom,” described as the trafficker’s trusted business partner who also acts as a sex worker, oftentimes recruiting and training other women, posting ads and ultimately sharing in the profits.
“2K IS THE FEE”
A search warrant which yielded Facebook messenger conversations between Turner, Harenza and potential recruits outlined their recruitment process for potential prostitutes after Backpage announced it was shutting down its escort section.
Turner, in correspondence with a woman, says his “choose fee” is $2,000, an amount he said will garner instruction from both him and Harenza.
“Choosing fees matter,” Harenza said in a December Facebook post. “Nothing is for free my daddy definitely got a fee. #KingFinesse.”
Turner can be found in multiple conversations telling women that they will not have to worry about future bills and frequently references the amount of money his women make.
“Come home” is the oft-repeated line used to entice girls—some police believe were in high school—to join the illegal enterprise.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
In February police discovered a LLC registered to the two of them called “Finesse the World and Co.” which showed large cash flows. The company did have an accompanying clothing sales website—without any clothing listed for sale. Neither individual had filed a tax return in years, throwing up red flags for investigators.
Rent upwards of $5,000 a month, extensive traveling outlined on the couple’s Facebook accounts, as well as a variety of expensive items--including a BMW 7 series registered to Turner--were all believed to have been paid for with illegally obtained money.
In-person surveillance found frequent short-term traffic police say is indicative of commercial sex, mostly filtering through the McKenzie Point Road home’s guest house.
Investigators also were able to find coinciding Facebook posts and Backpage prostitution ads posted by the same user when the pair was traveling, including stops in Atlanta and Miami with similar penthouse accommodations.
These details were enough to execute a search warrant on the couple’s Minnetonka home on Tuesday, leading to their arrest.
During an undercover text conversation with a person believed to be Harenza, police were given a price of $300 an hour, with a rate of $500 an hour for two women.
Officers conducted a sting operation, arresting Harenza at a hotel in Woodbury, Minn.
A subsequent sting at the couple’s property in Minnetonka found Turner in his car with two underage females who reported to police they had been asked to work for him and were promised “a lot of money and cars,” according to the complaint.
He later admitted to teaching Harenza “the game” and that he had received money from his commercial sex business. He also said Harenza doesn’t give him physical money, instead depositing it into bank accounts.
Other women were on 90 day agreements, giving him a percentage of their earnings, “which is sometimes 20 grand, sometime 15,” he told police.
Harenza was charged with aiding and abetting a racketeering enterprise and concealing criminal proceeds, and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
Turner was charged with four counts, including aiding and abetting a racketeering enterprise, concealing criminal proceeds, sex trafficking of minors and promoting prostitution. He has a long rap sheet full of armed robberies, and a few years ago he was one of 150 people arrested nationwide in a massive FBI sweep that focused on pimps—but from what Fox 9 investigators have been told, he was never charged with a crime in that case.