GF prostitution sting hooks fourGrand Forks police arrested four men Thursday in a prostitution sting at a southend motel that agreed to help in the law enforcement setup. Three men living or working in Grand Forks and a man from Northwood, N.D., were arrested when they showed up to meet what they thought was a hooker. They were booked into the Grand Forks County jail and bonded out on the Class B misdemeanor charge of trying to hire someone to engage in sexual activity, said Lt. Jim Remer.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
Grand Forks police arrested four men Thursday in a prostitution sting at a southend motel that agreed to help in the law enforcement setup.
Three men living or working in Grand Forks and a man from Northwood, N.D., were arrested when they showed up to meet what they thought was a hooker.
They were booked into the Grand Forks County jail and bonded out on the Class B misdemeanor charge of trying to hire someone to engage in sexual activity, said Lt. Jim Remer.
Law enforcement sources identified the men as Stephen Lagro, 50, who has lived in Hazen, N.D.; Emmanuel Jinor, 26, Grand Forks; Joshua McGoven, 22, Grand Forks and Matthew Nels Thompson, 35, Northwood, N.D.
A motel manager who is a friend of a police officer agreed to allow the sting operation to use his motel. The manager said he is certain there has not been any prostitution going on in his motel, which is owned by a Winnipeg company.
Sting is a first
Although Fargo police have been running stings to stop prostitution regularly for years, this is the first prostitution sting done in Grand Forks, Remer said.
An increase in reported activity related to prostitution, including online advertising of sexual services and a few recent prostitution-related cases led to the new move, Remer said.
“It’s something we will use from time to time and we will review how often it will be done. It is a tool that can be used by police to investigate these types of crimes.”
Remer, too, stressed that the motel used for the sting has not been seen as a site of any illegal activity.
A female officer went undercover and was advertised on the website, Backpage.com, on Thursday, Remer said.
“In a very quick turn-around time,” men began calling the phone number provided in the online ad and showing up to the location they were directed to, he said. Four men who called in to get the contact information showed up at the room and tried to buy sex, Remer said, saying he didn’t want to say too much about the investigative techniques used in the sting, including the prices quoted. Other men responded to the ad, but then didn’t show up, Remer said.
Backpage.com has become infamous across the country, criticized by many law enforcement and government leaders who say it facilitates illegal activity, including the trafficking of minors for sex. It’s happened in the Twin Cities, according to law enforcement officers.
It also happened in Grand Forks in 2011, according to recent guilty pleas by two people who admitted to pimping a 17-year-old girl to several men, using Backpage.com.
One of the male customers in that case, a high school counselor, was charged with a similar Class B misdemeanor as the four men arrested Thursday; he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve community service.
A woman who pleaded guilty last summer to prostitution at a north side Grand Forks motel admitted using Backpage.com to solicit an Emerado, N.D., man, who showed up at her motel room only hours after she posted the ad.
Both the woman and the man, caught in the room in May by police investigating a separate incident, were charged with Class B misdemeanors. They pleaded guilty, were fined and sentenced to a weekend in jail.
Remer said other cases involving drugs or assault have apparently been related to prostitution in the community recently, leading police to attempt a “proactive” enforcement move such as the sting.
Although the crime is treated as a lesser misdemeanor in state law, it’s often accompanied by more serious crimes, he said.