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Attorney general outlines Super Bowl sex trafficking sting in St. Croix County

St. Croix County Sheriff's Office investigative Sgt. Brandie Hart, New Richmond police Lt. Veronica Koehler and River Falls Deputy Chief Jon Aubart were among those joining Attorney General Brad Schimel at a Friday news conference in Hudson. He and others discussed a Super Bowl-timed sex sting in St. Croix County. Mike Longaecker / RiverTown Multimedia

HUDSON — Authorities said a two-day sting last week led to the rescue of human trafficking victims and would-be prostitution customers in St. Croix County.

The operation was timed months in advance to coincide with the Super Bowl, occurring in Minneapolis — just a half hour’s drive from Hudson, where state, county and local authorities launched one arm of a two-pronged sting.

The sting, held between Feb. 1-2 at a Hudson hotel and at undisclosed “meet places” yielded five arrests and the recovery of two trafficking victims, Attorney General Brad Schimel said a news conference Friday at the St. Croix County Government Center.

Some of those suspects knowingly targeted children as young as 14, he said.

“By targeting the so-called johns, we can suppress the money-making arm of the traffic networks,” Schimel said. “For those people who purchase sex, you need to know law enforcement -- local, state and federal -- are coming after you.”

St. Croix County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Cathy Borgschatz explained the operation began taking shape last summer after she and Sheriff Scott Knudson began discussing the local impact of human trafficking. That, she said, was when a special agent with the state justice department’s Division of Criminal Investigation reached out to propose a joint operation coinciding with the Super Bowl.

Days later, another state agent proposed an Internet Crimes Against Children operation that would run in tandem with the trafficking operation. Borgschatz said agencies from Hudson, River Falls and New Richmond — along with the Turningpoint shelter organization — pitched in.

“I know we have a lot of work to do to effectively address human trafficking and internet crimes against children,” Borgschatz said. “This is the beginning and I look forward to building on what was learned and what was accomplished last week.”

See next week’s print edition for more from the news conference.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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