Beltrami County, MN

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

Beltrami County is located in the northern part of Minnesota, roughly halfway between Duluth, MN and Grand Forks, ND.  Its population is roughly 46,000, and its county seat is Bemidji, which abuts the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been documented within the county, generating other crimes and resulting in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses.Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response.  For example, in March 2015, officers with the Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force, Minneapolis Police Department, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension placed decoy listings to an “online escort service” suggesting acts of prostitution with 15- and 18-year-old girls. Undercover officers then fielded text messages from several men who responded to the listing. Four sex buyers were arrested as a result; two were charged with solicitation of prostitution from an adult female (a misdemeanor), and two were charged with “engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with child,” a felony. All of the men’s names were publicized by media outlets. At least one of the four men later pleaded guilty.

In January 2017, two men were charged in Beltrami County court with engaging in electronic communication relating or describing sexual conduct with a child after responding to online ads posted by undercover officers. The men had been arrested in December 2016 and January 2017 in separate incidents. Each had responded to an ad posted by undercover Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents claiming to be underage girls interested in meeting for sex, according to criminal complaints against the men. The first man responded to a Craigslist ad posted by agents claiming to be a 14-year-old girl. He claimed to be 25 years old and allegedly sent the agent pictures of himself. The two agreed to meet in Bemidji, where the suspect allegedly believed they would engage in acts of paid sexual abuse. When the man arrived at the agreed-upon address he was arrested. The complaint against the second man states that he responded to a similar ad posted on social media, in which a BCA agent claimed to be a female looking for a sexual relationship with a male. Agents texted with the suspect and indicated that he was communicating with a 15-year-old girl.  He agreed to meet in Bemidji for sex, where he was arrested.  Both arrests come after the Bemidji Police Department obtained a $47,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety meant to help fight human trafficking.

In June, 2021, six men were arrested during a human trafficking operation that took place over two days in Beltrami County.  During the operation, suspects responded to an ad on a sex advertisement website. Investigators arrested the suspects as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for a commercial sex crime. All were booked into the Beltrami County Jail on probable cause solicitation of prostitution of an adult.  Investigators with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA)-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force led the operation in partnership with the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force, the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and the Bemidji Police Department.  The Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force was established in 2017 with funding from the Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs as a statewide enforcement effort to target traffickers and those exploiting children for commercial sexual abuse.

Key Partners

  • Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office
  • Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
  • Bemidji Police Department
  • Minnesota Department of Public Safety
  • Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force
  • Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking (TRUST) Task Force
  • Buffalo Police Department
  • Fond du Lac Police Department
  • Hibbing Police Department
  • Minneapolis Police Department
  • Saint Paul Police Department
  • Thief River Falls Police Department
  • Upper Sioux police departments
  • Red Lake Department of Public Safety
  • Chisago  County Sheriff’s Office
  • Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
  • Isanti County Sheriff’s Office
  • Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force
  • Ramsey County Attorney’s Office
  • Homeland Security Investigations

Key Sources

Web Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Other Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type County
Population 46513
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