Woodbury, 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

Woodbury is a city of approximately 71,000 residents, located in the eastern suburbs of St. Paul in Washington County, Minnesota. Prostitution activity has been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in other areas of the county.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking. Violence associated with the local sex trade is also well established, and includes a case of a murdered teenage sex trafficking victim. In addition, some cases of local sex trade activity have involved involved the production and transmission of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal laws). One example illustrates both the egregious harms of any local commercial sex market, as well as the value of using demand reduction tactics such as reverse stings: On October 2, 2022, a Sauk Centre, Minnesota man met with a police decoy posing as a 17-year-old girl in Woodbury so he could pay her to have sex with his 240-pound English mastiff dog, and to video record the abuse.  The 48-year-old-man set up a meeting with the undercover officer after responding to an online advertisement placed by the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force, according to charges filed in Washington County District Court. The man was arrested when he arrived at a Woodbury gas station to meet the decoy at the arranged time and place. The suspect had initiated a text conversation with the decoy the prior month, saying he wanted the girl to have sexual intercourse with his dog while he watched and masturbated. Twice the decoy told the suspect she was 17 years old, which he acknowledged. The man agreed to pay the decoy $350 to watch and an extra $50 to film the sexual abuse. Over the course of several days, the man “vividly described” in texts “the process of how his dog would have sexual intercourse,” the complaint stated. He said it would last anywhere between a half-hour and an hour. The suspect sent the decoy several links to bestiality websites that showed dogs having sex with people. He said he would bring the decoy flavored vodka. Officers were in Sauk Centre when the suspect left his home for the meet-up. They followed him for 120 miles until he got to the gas station. In his car, officers found the dog, along with $400 and a bottle of flavored vodka. Officers seized the man’s cell phone and recovered the text message string between him and the decoy. In an interview with police, the man admitted to searching for a commercial sex ad, communicating with someone who he believed was a 17-year-old girl and arranging the meeting. The man was charged with one count each of felony solicitation of someone under 18 for prostitution, gross misdemeanor attempted bestiality, and misdemeanor cruelty-mistreatment of animals.

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 May 2010, officers from the Woodbury Police Department conducted their first reverse sting. Law enforcement officials placed decoy advertisements alluding to sexual services to a website known for commercial sex sales. As male sex buyers responded to the listing, undercover officers arranged to meet the men at a local hotel. When the men arrived and solicited sex, they were arrested by police. All six sex buyers had their names and photos published by local media outlets.

In September 2015, authorities announced the completion of “multiple” web-based stings in Woodbury. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the operations were conducted in August and October of 2014, and had targeted individuals attempting to procure minors for commercial sex online. During the operations, undercover law enforcement officers with the Woodbury Police Department, with the support of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, St. Paul Police Department and Department of Homeland Security, posed as adults offering fictitious 15- and 17-year-old girls for prostitution. Later that month, all 13 attempted sex buyers’ identities were released to the public; law enforcement noted they had withheld the names of the offenders immediately following the first sting to protect the integrity of the second operation.

In April 2016, the Woodbury Bulletin announced that at least one offender arrested during the September 2015 underage prostitution sting had been convicted of “agreeing to hire a prostitute between ages 13 and 15, a gross misdemeanor,” and had been sentenced to “two years probation and 30 days in jail, with credit for one day served.” In January 2018, police used a classifieds website to post an ad in the “women-seeking-men section,” posing as a 15-year-old female. One man who responded to the ad asking to meet in person, and police, posing as the girl, told him to meet in an apartment in Woodbury. Officers met suspect at the apartment and arrested him. The following July, he was convicted in Washington County District Court for soliciting prostitution, and sentenced to 60 days in jail, five years of probation, and Sentence to Serve work release. He was also prohibited from using any social media or online dating services, and may not have any unsupervised contact with minor females.

Key Partners

  • Woodbury Police Department
  • East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force
  • Washington County District Court
  • Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
  • St. Paul Police Department
  • Department of Homeland Security


Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Background on local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, CSAM:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Minnesota
Type City
Population 71298
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