Charges of prostitution in a public place have been filed against nine men from Minnesota and Wisconsin who were arrested June 29, in a sting operation carried out in Cloquet.

Formal complaints were filed in Carlton County District Court this week against Daniel Scott Smith, 34, of Duluth; Richard Allen Kelly, 60, of Duluth; Daniel Edward Fitzgibbons, 42, of Minneapolis; Brian Lee Kaarto, 42, of Superior; Jervis Michael Stoffel, 54, of Duluth; Matthew Anthony Johnson, 41, of Cloquet; Ronald Duane Scinocca Jr., 55, of Duluth; Ankitkumar Bharatk Patel, 24, of Mounds View, Minn.; and Daryl Allen Harper, 62, of Duluth.

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All of the men posted bail, set at $6,000 bond or $600 cash, and were released. They are all scheduled for court appearances at 9 a.m. July 27 before Carlton County Judge Dale Wolf.

Terry Hill, deputy chief of the Cloquet Police Department, said the investigation was initiated about a year ago when police learned individuals had been seeking prostitution for hire via the Internet. He said the sting operation logged 28 inquiries in all, which consisted of text messages, e-mails and phone calls. The solicitation of prostitution for sexual services with an individual 18 years of age or older is a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year and $3,000 fine.

According to Detective Darrin Berg of the Cloquet Police Department, the sting operation was carried out at a randomly selected Cloquet motel between the hours of about 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. June 29. He said the men implicated in the sting had all responded to an advertisement on the same website offering prostitution services. He said each of the men made arrangements to meet women posing as prostitutes at a designated time at the motel.

No arrests were made until money actually exchanged hands after the suspect negotiated for whatever sexual services he desired, which was tracked by video and audio recording devices. All of the men were arrested before they made any physical contact with anyone.

Berg said all of the suspects were "very cooperative, though embarrassed" after being confronted by police, and they were subsequently taken to the Carlton County Jail for processing and charging.

The Cloquet Police Department partnered with local and federal law enforcement agencies --including the Lake Superior Gang and Drug Task Force, Duluth Police Violent Crimes Bureau, the Carlton County Sheriff's Office and federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- in conducting the investigation and sting operation.

Wendy Johnson is publisher of the Cloquet Pine Journal, a newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.