Six charged in human trafficking-related sting
Five men are charged with prostitution following a law enforcement sting in Superior.
In each case, the man allegedly responded to a fictitious online ad placed by the Superior Police Department offering sexual services for money. Calls and text messages started coming in immediately after the ad posted, according to the criminal complaints. An undercover female police officer met the men individually at a Superior hotel Aug. 13, where they were arrested.
The following men have been charged in Douglas County Court with prostitution: Lawrence Albert DePaulis, 70, of Nashwauk, Minn.; Kale Steven Edinger, 36, of Phillips, Wis.; Wayne Morris Everett, 60, of Cloquet; John Walter Kontny, 51, of Superior; and David Leon McCloud, 29 of Duluth. The charge, a class A misdemeanor, carries a maximum penalty of nine months of imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.
Edinger and Kontny were released on $1,000 signature bonds; the other men were released on $500 signature bonds. Their next court appearances are scheduled for September and October for DePaulis.
In addition to the prostitution charges, a Foxboro man has been accused of child enticement after responding to another online ad placed by Superior police.
Ronald Eugene Provost, 51, faces felony charges of child enticement and attempting to cause a child older than 13 to view sexual activity. The enticement charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment and up to $100,000 fine; the other charge carries a maximum penalty of nine years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint: Provost responded to another online ad posted by the Superior Police Department on Craigslist, supposedly from a younger female. A law enforcement officer typed an email message back to Provost that indicated it was from a 15-year-old girl, but the Foxboro man continued to text with her and set up a meeting Aug. 13 at a Superior hotel. He also sent a picture of an erect penis to the phone being used by law enforcement for the sting. He was arrested after arriving at the hotel where he had arranged to meet the teen outside on his motorcycle.
Provost made an initial appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on Aug. 14. He remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail. Cash bail of $1,000 was ordered with the condition that he not have any contact with minors. His next court appearance is set for Wednesday.
Nationwide the issue of human trafficking has been getting greater attention, according to Superior Deputy Chief Nick Alexander, and the Twin Ports region is not immune.
“Many of those engaged in prostitution are not doing so voluntarily,” Alexander stated in a press release.
The threat of money, drugs, food and shelter being withheld can force individuals to participate. Some are threatened with physical harm.
“Enforcing the prostitution and solicitation laws is just one way we can help reduce the instances of human trafficking in our communities,” Alexander said. “Operations like this serve to create a deterrent to those who seek pay-for-sex-services.”
People answering these undercover advertisements don’t know if they are communicating with a trafficked person or not, he said. Engaging in this activity could directly be contributing to the continued victimization of a trafficked person. Other agencies taking part in the sting include the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Duluth Police Department and Department of Homeland Security.
A similar sting last fall focusing on men who solicit prostitutes led to charges against seven area men. All pleaded guilty or no contest to prostitution. A number of the men were offered deferred judgment of conviction agreements. Under the agreement, they were ordered to attend a $750 “John School” course offered through a St. Paul-based organization called Breaking Free. The restorative justice course addresses the underlying attitudes and assumptions that encourage offenders to participate in prostitution, according to the organization’s website. If they completed the course, paid $250 in fines and abided by the agreement for a year, the District Attorney’s Office would move to amend the charges to county ordinance disorderly conduct with no further penalties.