Eight people were arrested in a two-day sting operation that targeted online solicitation of minors, officials announced Friday.
The initiative was led by the Duluth Police Department, St. Louis County Attorney’s Office and Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, which is based at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The operation focused on identifying and arresting suspects seeking to have sexual encounters with minor females in exchange for money, according to court documents. Investigators placed advertisements on various sites “known for soliciting commercial sex” and ran the operation out of a Duluth hotel room on Wednesday and Thursday.
According to criminal complaints, the suspects responded to the advertisements, which featured “several pictures of a female in suggestive poses.” The defendants allegedly communicated with undercover officers posing as a girl and claiming to be 15 years old.
The men agreed to meet and pay for sexual services, and were arrested upon arrival at the hotel, according to the complaints.
Four suspects were charged Friday in State District Court with felony counts of engaging in or agreeing to hire a minor to engage in prostitution. They are:
- Benjamin William Scott, 32, of Duluth;
- James Bryan Quiambao, 22, of Duluth;
- Ogechukwu Victor Adekweh, 33, of Grand Rapids; and
- Devivaraprasad Telagam, 35, of Duluth.
Four others were being held on probable cause, with formal charges yet to be filed. They include:
- A 36-year-old Silver Bay man;
- A 44-year-old Deer River man;
- A 62-year-old Britt man; and
- A 26-year-old Buffalo, Minn., man.
Police said the cases remain under investigation. The News Tribune generally does not identify suspects until they have been formally charged.