Sturgis is a city of less than 7,000 residents located along Interstate 90 in Western South Dakota, about midway between Rapid City and the Wyoming border. Its proximity to a major highway and Mount Rushmore draw people to the small city year round, but the population temporarily booms during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Community complaints about prostitution during the rally, coupled with concerns from law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups about potential sex trafficking activity drove local, state, and federal agencies to conduct an operation targeting demand in August 2013. Seven male sex buyers were arrested as part of an online reverse sting during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. FBI and Division of Criminal Investigation agents, along with the Rapid City Internet Crimes Against Children task force posted advertisements for 12- and 13-year-old girls on Craigslist and Backpage.com. The men allegedly responded to the listings and then negotiated sex acts with undercover agents; they were arrested when they arrived at a hotel to complete the transactions. Following their arrests, the identities of all of the men apprehended was released to the public. Each was charged in U.S. District Court with attempting to entice a person under 18 into a commercial sex act. In January 2014, it was reported that at least one of the men had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and was required to register as a sex offender. “He was earlier convicted of attempted trafficking with respect to involuntary servitude and forced labor for seeking sex with [what he believed to be a] 12-year-old girl.”
In August 2018, six men were arrested as the result of a sex trafficking operation in the Rapid City area, which took place during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office worked on the sting in conjunction with law enforcement officials from Pennington County, Rapid City, Sturgis and the state Division of Criminal Investigation. The six men, ranging in age from 20 to 55, were charged with attempted enticement of a minor using the internet, which charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison upon conviction.
In December 2018 a Colorado man caught during an undercover sex trafficking sting during the 2016 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota was convicted of a child sex crime. The U.S. attorney’s office reported that the man from Fort Collins, Colorado, engaged in multiple chats and text messages about sex with a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl but was in fact an undercover agent. He was convicted of attempting to entice a minor via the internet after a three-day trial last week in federal court in Rapid City. The man was was one of 10 men indicted as a result of the rally sting in 2016. In August, 2019, another undercover investigation apprehended 11 men seeking sex with minors during the 79th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
- Rapid City Police Department
- South Dakota Attorney General’s Office
- South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation
- South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
- Pennington County Sheriff’s Office
- U.S. Homeland Security
- Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “More Men Arrested in Sturgis Sex Sting,” CBS/KELO-TV 11, August 7 2013.
- “Sex Trafficking Victim Advocate Calls Sturgis Arrests ‘Big’,” CBS/KELO-TV 11, August 7 2013.
- “Sex Trafficking Sting Nets Nine Arrests,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Dakota, August 13 2013.
- “Annual Officer Training Focuses on Sex Trafficking,” CBS/KELO-TV 11, November 13 2013.
- “Man Sentenced in Sturgis Child Prostitution Case,” KBHB-AM 810, January 31 2014.
- http://www.kfyrtv.com/6-arrested-in-Sturgis-sex-trafficking-sting (2018)
- https://brookingsregister.com/man-caught-in-sturgis-trafficking-sting-convicted (2018)
- https://www.newscenter1.tv/colorado-man-convicted-after-2016-sturgis-motorcycle-rally-sex-sting/ (2018)
- https://www.kotatv.com/11-men-arrested-in-sex-sting-operation-at-79th-Sturgis-Motorcycle-Rally (2019)
- https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2020/08/18/sturgis-motorcycle-rally-sex-trafficking-sting-south-dakota/3394282001/ (2020)
- Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- “South Dakota’s Dirty Little Secret: Human Trafficking,” CBS/KELO-TV 11, April 4 2013.
- “South Dakota Taking Aim at Shadowy Sex Trade,” Rapid City Journal, June 17 2013.
- “State to Fight Human Trafficking at Motorcycle Rally,” Rapid City Journal, July 25 2013.
- “SD to Fight Human Trafficking at Motorcycle Rally,” Pierre Capital Journal, July 26 2013.
- https://www.argusleader.com/south-dakota-pheasant-hunting-season-sex-trafficking-strip-clubs (2018)