MINNEAPOLIS - Amid the bright lights of the Super Bowl, Minnesota law enforcement worked hard to put the red light on sex trafficking and those seeking to prey on children.
But court records reviewed by KARE 11 reveal that many of the men arrested in a highly-publicized sting operation still have not been officially charged with a crime.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) led a Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force that conducted the sting operation from January 26 through February 3.
Suspects responding to online ads unknowingly emailed and texted with undercover agents posing as children. They were arrested as they arrived at an arranged meeting place for an encounter with what they thought would be underage girls.
"They were online, looking for children to have sexual encounters with,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans at the time. He added the busts were “to ensure that people understand, if you do target our children, we're going to be looking for you and we will be arresting you when you try to do that.”
In a news release issued just days after the Super Bowl, the BCA touted the successful operation saying more than three dozen people were facing possible felony charges.
The BCA said:
• 36 people were booked on probable cause felony solicitation of a minor.
• 7 people were booked on probable cause sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution.
• 14 women were rescued from trafficking situations.
Six months have passed, but when KARE 11 checked court records court on Monday, July 23, we discovered only one of the 43 people arrested had been officially charged.
Court records show Sandy Kalway, 52, of Foley, MN allegedly responded to a Craigslist post that read “Young sexy girl seeking older guy for fun.”
According to court records, Foley texted, “Maybe we are a fit Doll.”
When the undercover agent posing as a child texted “im 15 gonna be 16 in a couple months …. Don’t want you to get mad…but im kool if you are,” Kalway is alleged to have texted back “Ok Love. I’m cool.” And began sending naked photos of himself.
Records indicate he was taken into custody when he showed up at an undercover address in North St. Paul where he had been told to meet the underage girl.
Although he was arrested on January 31, records show he wasn’t charged in Ramsey County until June 1. Kalway tells KARE 11 he plans to plead not guilty.
Earlier this week, KARE 11 began contacting the BCA and local prosecutors about why Kalway was the only person to have been charged.
Prosecutors said the slow progress was due to delays at the BCA.
Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar, whose office will handle 13 of the cases, responded to an email from KARE 11 stating, “Still waiting on some information from the BCA.”
Imran Ali, the assistant Washington County prosecutor who specializes in sex crimes, told KARE 11 that his office was still waiting for evidence from the BCA in order to make a charging decision on the only arrest in their jurisdiction made during the BCA bust.
By comparison, Imran Ali said all 19 of the individuals arrested in his county as part of a separate Super Bowl taskforce organized by the Minneapolis Police and other local departments already have been charged.
Some suspects arrested in that sting not only have been charged, they are already entering the sentencing phase.
For example, a Super Bowl 52 worker from Missouri was arrested after he offered two VIP tickets to a Super Bowl event in exchange for sex with a 15-year-old-girl and a 13-year-old boy.
Justin Beard responded to a Craigslist post on January 30, was formally charged in Hennepin County on February 1, and agreed to plead guilty on May 21. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on August 13.
KARE 11 requested an interview with the BCA to ask about the delay. The BCA declined.
In an email, BCA spokesperson Jill Oliveira said that the seven human trafficking cases are active and under investigation and all the cases for the 36 individuals originally arrested for solicitation of a minor have been forwarded to prosecutors to review and make charging decisions
After KARE 11 began raising questions on July 23, several additional cases have been filed. The Washington County case was filed two days later.
In the past few days Ramsey County prosecutors say they filed 10 cases. A spokesman says the BCA recently forwarded 15 additional cases for review.
Suspects who are officially charged with a crime can be placed under court supervision while they await trial. For example, before he agreed to plead guilty, Justin Beard was released on the condition that he post bond and have no contact with children.
However, suspects who have not been charged do not have court-ordered restrictions.
That means the suspected child predators arrested in the BCA sting back in January and early February have been free in their communities for six months with no limitations on where they can go and who they can be around.
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