Washington County police allege that the two individuals they arrested last week ran a large-scale prostitution and sex trafficking operation.
28-year-old Ricky Arlen Turner Jr. and 25-year-old Brittany Marie Harenza face a number of serious charges stemming from the alleged trafficking ring. At the moment, the pair have been charged with:
- Felony racketeering
- Concealing criminal proceeds
- Engaging in the trafficking of a minor
- Promoting prostitution
According to the criminal complaint filed against the pair, the operation offered commercial sex services in more than a dozen states.
“This is a large-scale, sophisticated enterprise centered around the exploitation of women that’s been going on for several years,” said Washington County Major Crimes Prosecutor Imran Ali.
Authorities were able to track the pair after issuing a subpoena to Backpage.com for the IP address associated with more than 35 sexually-explicit advertisements listed on the site. The IP address was traced back to Harenza, who was taken into custody at the Woodbury County Inn and Suites on May 16 after an officer contacted her through one of the advertisements and arraigned a meetup. The St. Paul, Oakdale, Cottage Grove and Eden Prairie police also assisted the Woodbury department’s undercover operation.
Turner was taken into custody later that night when Minnetonka police raided the couple’s lakefront home. A minor that had been recruited by the pair was present at the home during the raid, which led to the additional charges.
Turner is being held on $500,000 bail, while Harenza is being held at $150,000.
Focusing On Stopping Sex Trafficking
Woodbury Police Chief Lee Vague said that his department has been working with a number of county and metro agencies to improve their focus on breaking up sex trafficking rings. Police hope to really crack down in the next couple of years when the metro area will host a number of high profile sporting events, including the Super Bowl, which often attracts traffickers.
Chief Vague also made it a point that they want to focus on stopping the ring leaders and helping the women and minors get the help and services they need. When a case involves a minor, Woodbury and other county agencies work to connect the victim to safe housing and supportive services.
“These are not victimless crimes. These are young people who are being trafficked,” said Chief Vague. “It goes way beyond just arresting people.”
That’s the same message we preach here at Appelman Law Firm. We understand that prostitution and sex trafficking are not victimless crimes, and we want to ensure these exploited individuals get the legal and supportive services they need to get their life back on track. If you or someone you know has been victimized by a trafficker, reach out to our firm and we’ll provide you with the best legal services we can, and we’ll help direct you to professional rehabilitation services to help you in other aspects of your life. Contact us today.