Sturgis, SD

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Sturgis is a city of just over 7,000 residents located along Interstate 90 in Western South Dakota, about midway between Rapid City and the Wyoming border. It is the county seat of Meade County, SD. 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. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity are well-documented in the city and greater county area. Among the more serious issues surrounding the area’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is an annual event in which hundreds of thousands of motorcyclists from around the nation to tour the Black Hills, listen to outdoor concerts, and eat from local food vendors. Due to the influx of tourists in the area, the Sturgis Rally has become a main event that drives sex trafficking within the state of South Dakota. As a result of the increase in commercial sex activity, agents from the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conduct reverse sting operations in coordination with local law enforcement agencies such as the Rapid City Police Department, the Sturgis Police Department, and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office. These operations have been occurring since August 2013 when community complaints about prostitution activity occurring 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 a reverse sting operation during the rally. As a result of the first investigation, seven male sex buyers were arrested. According to reports, the FBI and Division of Criminal Investigation agents, along with the Rapid City Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force posted decoy advertisements for 12-to-13-year-old girls on and (websites known for commercial sex activity) and communicated with potential sex buyers who had responded to the decoy ads, initiated communication, and negotiated sex acts with undercover officers. The male sex buyers were arrested upon their arrival to the predetermined location by undercover officers. Following their arrests, the identities of the arrested sex buyers were 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 in conjunction with law enforcement officials from Pennington County, Rapid City, Sturgis and the state Division of Criminal Investigation on the sting. 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 March 2021, two men were found guilty of sex crimes charges against minors stemming from the reverse sting operations conducted during the 2017 and 2019 Sturgis Motorcycle Rallies. One was an Arizona resident who was found guilty of Attempted Commercial Sex Trafficking of a Minor and Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet committed during the 2017 Sturgis Rally. In multiple text messages with a person he believed was a pimp for a 15-year-old girl – but who was instead an undercover agent – he negotiated a time and place to meet to engage in sexual abuse of a minor. Upon arriving at the pre-determined location, he was met with law enforcement and taken into custody.

In December 2018, a Colorado man caught during an undercover web-based reverse sting operation 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, CO, 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 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 to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money during the 79th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

In 2020, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was the site of another undercover operation. This web-based reverse sting was conducted by a joint task force comprised of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and U.S. Homeland Security. In this most recent operation, eight men were arrested and charged with an assortment of sex crimes. Sticking to previously set precedents, the names and ages of the offenders were released in addition to their crimes. Many of the men face charges for attempted enticement of a minor using the internet. According to reports, the perpetrators were communicating with undercover agents using a variety of websites and chatrooms. When the men showed up to meet the underage girls, whom they believed would be engaging in sexual acts in exchange for various forms of payment, they were arrested.  In August, 2022, six men were arrested during the annual motorcycle rally and charged for Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet. If convicted, the mandatory minimum penalty is 10 years up to life in federal prison, as well as any term of years — no less than five — up to lifetime supervised release.

Since the first investigation in August 2013, over 70 male sex buyers have been arrested and charged with crimes related to child sex trafficking, online solicitation of a minor, and the creation/distribution of child sexual abuse material.

Key Sources

Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Timeline of Operations and Sentencing

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution:

State South Dakota
Type City
Population 7103
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