Rhinelander, WI

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

Rhinelander is the county seat of Oneida County, Wisconsin, and has a population of roughly 7,600. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Oneida County.  Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are sex trafficking, child endangerment, child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state laws) and violence committed against people involved in these transactions.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. For example, in October of 2014, two men were arrested in Oneida County during an operation targeting people trying to solicit children for sexual activity. In June 2016, the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force engaged in Operation New Hope, a one-week enforcement effort that included participation from over 40 Wisconsin agencies, including the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office.  The local component was part of the nationwide Operation Broken Heart.  The national crackdown targeted offenders who: (1) possess, manufacture, and distribute “child pornography;” (2) engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) engage in the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and (4) engage in child sex tourism.  The Wisconsin ICAC Task Force made 87 arrests of suspected child predators and 129 community presentations on Internet safety.  In October 2016, a 35-year-old man was arrested while trying meet an underage person for sexual abuse. The suspect had responded to an online ad placed by the Oneida County Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.

In April 2019 a man was arrested in Rhinelander during a sting operation designed to catch child sexual predators. He was arrested at a Rhinelander store when he thought he was going to meet a 15-year-old girl for paid sexual abuse, according to a criminal complaint. He was in possession of condoms at the time of the arrest, which he initially told officers were old but later admitted to purchasing on his way to meet the girl. He appeared in court and was charged with attempted second-degree sexual assault and using a computer to facilitate a sex crime. A judge set cash bond at $5,000 under the condition that he does not possess any devices that can connect to the internet.

Some arrests of local sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys.  For example, in September, 2022, a Rhinelander resident was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for sex trafficking of a child under the age of 14 years old. The man used social media applications and public Wi-Fi hotspots to communicate with children, often requesting to exchange money for acts of child sexual abuse. In July of 2019, he traveled from his home in Rhinelander to the south side of Chicago, where he lured a minor with whom he had been communicating online into his vehicle. He then engaged in sexual abuse of the child in exchange for money. Further investigation revealed that he attempted or performed sexual abuse with several minors throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. At the sentencing hearing, the judge noted “the horrendous nature of the crime” and the vital need to deter him from engaging in further abuse.

Key Partners

  • Rhinelander Police Department
  • Oneida County Sheriff’s Department
  • Oneida County Internet Crimes against Children Task Force
  • Wisconsin ICAC Task Force
State Wisconsin
Type City
Population 7617
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