See more of the story

A law enforcement sweep led to the arrest of 43 people on felony prostitution and child sex-trafficking charges leading up to the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said Wednesday.

A multiagency task force coordinated what it called a “sting” operation through social media platforms in the nine days leading up to Super Bowl LII last Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Undercover officers chatted with suspects, and authorities arrested those who arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter, the BCA said Wednesday.

Most of the suspects are from the Twin Cities. They are being held in Ramsey, Scott or Washington county jails, pending charges. The BCA said three dozen were booked on probable cause for solicitation of a minor and seven were booked for sex trafficking or promoting prostitution. In addition, the BCA said, 14 women were “rescued from trafficking situations.”

Those numbers reflect only the BCA’s task force and do not include arrests on similar charges or stings conducted by other law enforcement agencies.

BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said the operation demonstrates the commitment to stop sex trafficking and help trafficking victims. The BCA leads the interagency Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, which includes personnel from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, and the Ramsey County Attorney’s office.

“Now that the Super Bowl is past, these arrests should serve as a stark reminder that what drives the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people is the demand,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a prepared statement. “Notably, as shown by these arrests, the demand is a local problem and involves men from our own community who want to exploit very young girls and boys.”

The sting also included the participation of the Carver, Crow Wing, Dakota, Pope and Ramsey County sheriff’s offices, the Belle Plaine, Chaska, New Prague, North St. Paul, Savage and Shakopee police departments, and the Scott and Washington county attorney’s offices.

To report a suspected trafficking situation, call the BCA at 877-996-6222 or e-mail bca.tips@state.mn.us. To report that someone is in immediate danger of being trafficked for sex, call 911.

Dan Browning • 612-673-4493