Cascade County, MT

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

Cascade County is located in Central Montana and has a population of about 82,000. Its county seat is Great Falls, MT, where prostitution has been well-documented. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the county for over a century. In 1888, when the city was just four years old, an ordinance was passed against prostitution. Between the settlement of Great Falls and World War I, it’s estimated that sex buyers would be able to find between 100-125 prostituted women at any one time. Even over a century ago, women in prostitution were victims of brutal attacks and murders. In 1969s, the homicide of a 35-year-old Great Falls man led to a Cascade County Attorney’s discovery of an organized prostitution ring operating in the county. The city has also reported significant issues with massage parlors serving as fronts for prostitution.

Among the more serious issues associated with the local commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. In 2016, a 40-year-old man was arrested for prostituting a 17-year-old girl in Great Falls. A few months later, a 20-year-old woman pleaded guilty to one count of promotion of prostitution for her connection to the same human trafficking ring.

Child endangerment has also been occurred in connection to commercial sex activity in the county. For example, on August 7, 2017, a Great Falls police officer received a phone call from a deputy with the Pondera County Sheriff’s Office; who said that he had been contacted by a man who claimed that he used to live with the offender in Great Falls. The man alleged that the offender was involved in the distribution of pills and also “sells his step-children.” The man claimed that the offender and his wife, “took the two children out of school and ‘sells’ them for $800 per month.” After obtaining a search warrant, police searched the residence in October 2017 and found the two children, as well as a syringe on the kitchen floor which later tested positive for meth. According to court documents, “a person disclosed that [the offender] had asked another person to make a false statement about witnessing a rape between two adults in connection with the case, resulting in a charge of tampering with a witness or informant.” His wife was listed as a co-defendant on the charge of endangering the welfare of a child. A July 2018 report of the couple’s offense and arrest led to additional sex trafficking charges against the male offender.

In December 2018, a man and a woman were arrested on with sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children charges. According to reports, the couple was arrested after a 13-year-old teenage girl saw the offender’s image on a news report from July 2018, detailing the his arrest for “endangering the welfare of children and tampering with a witness or informant.” The victim recognized the man as her abuser and told police that he would pay the woman to sexually abuse her. The woman would inject the victim with drugs prior to being sexually abused. The man was charged with three felonies: trafficking of persons; sexual intercourse without consent; and sexual abuse of children. The woman was charged with two felonies: trafficking of persons, and sexual abuse of children. Bond for each was set at $250,000. In late December 2018, the man faced an felony charge for aggravated promotion of prostitution after police interviewed a woman who alleged that she had been sexually exploited by the man for over 20 years. According to reports, she had met the man when she was 17 and he had been sex trafficking her to financially support himself since.

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. In July 2014, officers with the Great Falls Police Department and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force conducted a web-based sting targeting individuals seeking to solicit sex from minors. At least three men responded to a decoy advertisement posted by law enforcement and arranged to meet undercover female officers posing as underage girls. According to media reports, each male sex buyer was arrested after agreeing to exchange $150-200 to sexually exploit the officers, who they believed were 12- to 15-year-old girls. Following their arrests, each of the men’s names, ages, and hometowns were released to the public. According to media reports, “under [Montana] state law, paying for a sex act or agreeing to pay for a sex act with a child when an offender is over 18 years of age carries a mandatory 25-year prison sentence, with an additional 75 years to be served in prison or on probation.”

In July 2016, two more sex buyers were arrested as a result of a sting operation. One was accused of soliciting sex from a girl he believed to be 12 after he traveled to Great Falls for “an arranged meeting with $200 to discuss the transaction with an individual who turned out to be an undercover officer.”

In July 2019, a multi-agency human trafficking operation in Cascade County led to the arrests of five male suspects on misdemeanor prostitution charges. Investigators in the web-based operation advertised commercial sex on social media platforms and arranged to meet with those responding to the undercover decoys. One arrest led to a search warrant of a local massage parlor. The operation involved multiple agencies, including the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), the Great Falls Police Department, the Cascade County Attorney’s Office, the Montana Division of Criminal Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the ICAC Task Force. The Montana Chief Deputy Attorney General observed the operation and complimented the work of Montana’s 66th Legislature for providing funding to the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, “to assist and coordinate on human trafficking cases in local communities.”

According to a release from the CCSO, a total of 10 prostitution-related arrests were made across the Cascade County in September 2019. All 10 men were charged with prostitution of the first offense. Convicted sex buyers in Montana potentially face fines of $1,000 or one year in jail for the first offense. Any repeat offenses could lead to a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to five years in jail. The arrests were a follow-up to the sting operation that took place during the Montana State Fair over the summer. Other agencies involved in the arrests include the Great Falls Police Department, the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force, and the Cascade County Attorney’s Office.

Arrests of sex buyers in the county are sometimes made during alternative investigations rather than as the result of reverse sting operations. For example, in September 2020, a man was arrested and charged with aggravated promotion of prostitution of a minor. The U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) had consulted with Great Falls police about an ongoing investigation regarding the suspect, who was an active-duty airman assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base. Court documents stated that the suspect attempted to have sexual contact with a youth in Great Falls and was arrested. OSI took jurisdiction of that investigation and seized the man’s phone, which contained messages that indicated he was engaged in soliciting prostitution from a 16-year old person. Police identified the child by photos and the name provided on their social media account.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Commercial Sex:

State Montana
Type County
Population 81576
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