Charges: Minnesota principal tried to hire 15-year-old for sex

A Savage middle school principal has been charged, accused of prostitution of a minor following an undercover police operation in St. Louis Park on Tuesday.

The St. Louis Park Police Department said Wednesday four men, including Eagle Ridge Middle School Principal Mohamed Selim, were arrested during the operation that involved undercover officers communicating with people who sought to buy sex from a minor. This operation was part of a coordinated statewide response aimed at ending human trafficking and exploitation, police said. 

Three of the four men arrested were booked into jail and released, but Selim, 38, of Lakeville, was being held in jail "due to his position of authority working with children," police said. 

Selim was charged Thursday in Hennepin County District Court with one count of prostitution of someone he believed to be between the ages 13-16. His first court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Friday. The cases involving the other three men have also been forwarded to the attorney’s office for a charging decision. 

Selim is the principal at Eagle Ridge Middle School and was previously the principal at William Byrne Elementary School. Both schools are part of the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District (District 191). 

In a statement on Thursday, the district said it cannot share private personal information but it "can confirm" Selim "will not be at work at this time." Associate Principal Bill Heim will serve as acting principal.

"This is a hard day for the school and for the district," Superintendent Theresa Battle said in a statement. "It will be difficult for all of us to process this. At the same time, we will continue our commitment to providing a high-quality education and experience for students as we finish the school year."

The district called the allegations "upsetting" and said its "immediate and primary concern" is for the wellbeing of students, noting there isn’t any indication any students from District 191 were involved. Counselors and support will be available for students and staff. 

Meanwhile, the Savage Police Department in a news release Thursday said it is unaware of any complaints or allegations related to Selim within the City of Savage, and it is not actively assisting in the investigation. 

The charges

According to the criminal complaint, police from multiple jurisdictions were involved in an undercover sex trafficking/prostitution of minors operation. They placed ads on multiple websites offering prostitution services and Selim responded to one of the ads,

Selim texted an undercover officer who was posing as a 15-year-old girl at 1 p.m. on May 17, saying he "would love to come see" her and asked if 4 p.m. that day would work, the complaint said. The undercover officer provided her rate of $250 for an hour and $175 for a half-hour, as well as extra for "upgrades." He said he would come over for an hour.

He also called the undercover officer, and in the conversation, which was recorded, he asked what the "session was like" and if it was "full service." During the phone call, the undercover officer said she lied in the ad and she was actually 15.

According to the complaint, Selim:

"… laughed and stated ‘OK, that’s fine’ and then asked, ‘So, you’re 15?’ [Selim] then stated that it was too young and was not going to work, but then asked [the undercover officer] where she was located. When advised that she was in St. Louis Park, [Selim] asked if she was affiliated with police. [Selim] then said that her age made him really nervous, but he would still come see her so they could ‘spend some time together.’ After they stopped talking via phone, [Selim] messaged [the undercover officer] to ‘let me know if I can come see you now. Please send me the address.’"

Selim arrived at the address the undercover officer provided, messaging the officer that he was there. The officer said she was walking to meet him, asking if he could pick her up at a nearby location. He went there and was arrested, charges said. 

The complaint said he was distraught and made comments that his life and career were over. Selim had $208 on him at the time of his arrest. Police also seized his cell phone. 

Full statement from the district

Here is the full statement from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District: 

"As you may have seen in media reports, Principal Mohamed Selim has been arrested on suspicion of prostitution involving a minor and a charging decision is expected today. Although the district cannot share private personnel information, it can confirm that Mr. Selim will not be at work at this time.

"Following these upsetting allegations, the district’s immediate and primary concern is for the well-being of our students. Based on the information the district has seen so far, there’s no indication that District 191 students are involved. The district will cooperate with law enforcement as they investigate and will take appropriate actions as dictated by district policies and procedures. 

"'This is a hard day for the school and for the district,' said Superintendent Dr. Theresa Battle. ‘It will be difficult for all of us to process this. At the same time, we will continue our commitment to providing a high quality education and experience for students as we finish the school year.’

"Counselors and support will be available for students and staff who may need to talk to someone. If family members or students have concerns or questions, they can also contact the school directly.

"Associate Principal Bill Heim will serve as acting principal."

If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking or suspect a sex trafficking situation, contact the BCA at 651-793-7000, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also send the text "HELP" to 233733.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.