Sioux Falls, 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

Sioux Falls is a city of approximately 181,000 residents located at the crossroads of two major interstate highways (I-90 and I-29) in Southeastern South Dakota. It is the most populous city in the state and is the county seat of Minnehaha County. Documented cases of sex trafficking and prostitution have occurred in the city, some as part of interstate criminal operations. For example, between 1951 and 1956, there was a federal campaign against organized interstate prostitution – much of which would now be called sex trafficking – in the upper Midwest of the United States. A series of investigations and enforcement operations revealed a prostitution and sex trafficking network centered in a bar in Minneapolis, MN, and spanning numerous cities in several states, including Chicago, IL; Sioux Falls, SD; Eau Claire, La Crosse, and Superior, WI.  In December 1951 the FBI announced a campaign against organized interstate prostitution in the Upper Midwest, and when George MacKinnon took over as US Attorney for Minnesota in 1953, he targeted a prostitution enterprise that stretched from Chicago to Sioux Falls and beyond, with a nexus at a Northeast Minneapolis saloon called John’s Bar and Funhouse. By the end of the campaign in mid-1956, the bar had lost its license, and 110 men and women had been convicted of violating the Mann Act. In December 2013, an operation was uncovered that took in homeless teen girls and gave them clean clothes, drugs, alcohol and shelter. In exchange, the girls were sex trafficked out of a one-bedroom apartment just blocks from the federal courthouse in downtown Sioux Falls, by an adult sex trafficker. The brothel was described by police as a “house of horrors,” taking in vulnerable teen girls and young women and luring them into being sex trafficked.

In contemporary times, prostitution and sex trafficking have spawned a wide range of ancillary crimes and problems within the city, including cases of trafficking-related child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, referred to in many criminal codes as “child pornography”). For example, in October, 2016, a 36-year-old Sioux Falls doctor accused of having a sexual relationship with a young runaway has been indicted on human trafficking, exploitation and “child pornography” charges. A grand jury indicted the man on four counts of human trafficking, six counts of sexual exploitation, four counts of procuring or promoting prostitution, two counts of manufacturing or distributing child pornography, two counts of contributing to abuse or neglect of a child, possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute to a minor, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The two met through the website “Seeking Arrangement,” designed to connect “sugar daddies” (sex buyers) with “sugar babies” (younger persons being exploited in commercial sex). Prosecutors said law enforcement has an ongoing investigating into other conversations he’s had with young people, including an 18-year-old from Iowa and an underaged girl from Nebraska. Prosecutors described his behavior as a “pattern of prostitution.”

In February 2022, a Sioux Falls woman was sentenced to 210 months in federal prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, and a special assessment to the Federal Crime Victims Fund in the amount of $100. after being found guilty of sex trafficking a minor female. According to reports, “the sex trafficker knowingly and intentionally recruited the juvenile female to engage in commercial sexual acts with men in the Sioux Falls area.  [The woman] communicated with customers using her cellular telephone, sending text messages and calling them to arrange the sexual acts. [The sex trafficker] received money for the commercial sexual acts in the form of cash and Western Union wire transfers.” The case was investigated by the Sioux Falls Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation. In addition to child sex trafficking, CSAM, and drug offenses, there have been several reports of targeted homicide against prostituted women in the city and greater surrounding areas of the county.

To deter sex buyers that provide the revenue motivating all prostitution and sex trafficking enterprises, the Sioux Falls Police Department has conducted numerous web-based reverse sting operations. Activity focused on prostitution and combating demand increased as the state’s population grew with the Bakken oilfield boom. In one operation in 2012, two decoys plus officers in support of the decoy conducted a web-based reversal. A local hotel collaborated with police, providing a location for the decoy, the team to meet and for arrests to take place. The department posted online ads for escort services and began getting responses within 20 minutes, receiving more than 100 text messages in responses to the ads. Ten men arrived at the hotel, and eight were arrested and charged with “hiring for sexual activity,” a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. The names, home towns, and ages of arrested sex buyers were released to the media. In another web-based reversal later in 2012, five men responded to decoy ads and seven male sex buyers were arrested. Another reverse sting occurred on January 31, 2013, resulting in three arrests. One man twice arrested for soliciting sex online was rearrested in September 2013, for using Craigslist to buy sex while on a work release program due to a prior soliciting charge. Some of the operations have focused on arresting men attempting to solicit sex from children. For example, in 2012, one operation resulted in 17 men arrested for attempting to solicit sex from minors. The names of those arrested were released to the media.

In February 2019, the Sioux Falls Police Department announced a commitment to operations intended to deter sex buyers and reduce the demand for commercial sex, as a means of reducing problems associated with prostitution and sex trafficking. Sioux Falls police posted decoy ads for commercial sex and had responses from over 100 individuals. The police efforts are part of a comprehensive push to address sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, which includes victims service programs, and a human trafficking awareness conference held in March 2019.

From March 6, 2022, through March 10, 2022, a joint online sex crimes operation that resulted in the arrest of five men. The operation was a collaboration of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with the assistance of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Sioux Falls Police Department, Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). All five male sex buyers were arrested and charged with “Attempted Enticement of a Minor Using the Internet.” Their identities were included in reports by local media outlets.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:

Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, CSAM:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Child Endangerment:

  • “Women Charged with Prostitution Had Son with Her,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, March 16 2016.

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Local Prostitution Ordinance:

State South Dakota
Type City
Population 180927
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