Bloomington detectives crack suburban prostitution ring

Two Twin Cities men were among three arrests last month in connection with a Bloomington Police Department investigation into a prostitution ring that is suspected of using apartments in Edina and Richfield to conduct business.

The police department arrested 35- and 40-year-old St. Louis Park men Jan. 3. Also arrested was a 32-year-old woman from New York. The trio has not been charged as of last week, according to Bloomington Police Cmdr. Kim Clauson.

The city’s investigation began with a routine effort to quell prostitution activity in Bloomington, particularly in the city’s hotels. On Nov. 1, a detective scanning online prostitution advertisements made an appointment through an ad promoting prostitution along Interstate 494. The advertisement promoted an Asian prostitute, and the detective’s inquiry appeared to be handled through a call center, a common practice of Asian human trafficking organizations, according to Clauson.

The detective was directed to an apartment in Edina. With the assistance of additional detectives, the police department called upon the apartment, and an Asian female answered the door. The apartment was set up like a brothel, according to police. Inside were beds, prostitution paraphernalia, a suitcase, TV, several phones and toiletries.

With interpretive assistance, the woman was interviewed at the apartment. It was determined that she had been flown to Minnesota from New York for the sole purpose of prostitution and that a large portion of her earnings were being turned over to the organization, Clauson explained.

The woman was not arrested, as she was viewed as a victim. She was instead transported to the airport so that she could return to New York, Clauson noted.

In their investigation, detectives obtained the name and a description of the lessee of the apartment. One of the detectives recognized the name as a fake name that has been used in the past by an Asian human trafficking organization to rent an apartment. Further investigation determined that a Richfield apartment was also being rented using the same fake name and identification, according to Clauson.

At that point, investigators focused upon the prostitution operators rather than the prostitution acts, Clauson said.

A phone number for the lessee, provided by the Edina apartment management, was used to obtain a warrant to track the phone. Through surveillance and tracking of the phone, the police department identified the 40-year-old St. Louis Park man as a suspect.

A tracking device placed on his vehicle showed that he was making frequent trips to the Richfield apartment. Through surveillance, detectives were able to identify the 35-year-old St. Louis Park man as another suspect. Tracking of his vehicle was conducted as well, Clauson explained.

Surveillance and traffic stops were conducted to identify individuals associated with the suspects for approximately one month. The 35-year-old man was found to be living in the Richfield apartment, and a hidden camera was set up in the apartment hallway. It showed 10-12 “Johns” coming to the apartment per day. It also showed both suspects entering the apartment using a key to open the door. Search warrants were drafted for the Richfield apartment, the 40-year-old man’s St. Louis Park apartment and both of their vehicles, according to Clauson.

On Jan. 3, detectives executed the search warrants by initially setting up prostitution services at the Richfield apartment, and the New York woman was inside the apartment when the warrant was conducted, resulting in her arrest on suspicion of prostitution. The apartment was set up similar to the Edina apartment, and during surveillance, the two men were seen moving items from the Edina apartment to the Richfield unit, Clauson said.

Following the execution of search warrants in Richfield and St. Louis Park, detectives went to Maple Grove, where both men were thought to be, based upon the tracking devices on their vehicles. The men were located and arrested on suspicion of promoting prostitution, according to Clauson.

Searches of their vehicles were conducted, which turned up a box of condoms that were intended for the Richfield apartment, approximately $5,000 thought to be proceeds from prostitution. Approximately 100 items were inventoried through the department’s searches. With the aid of an interpreter, interviews of the suspects were conducted following their arrests. During more than eight interviews, the trio talked about their human trafficking operation, Clauson noted.

Detectives learned during the interviews that the two men were in the process of opening a restaurant in Maple Grove, and that proceeds from prostitution were being used to fund it. Based upon bank records found during the search warrants, detectives were able to freeze five accounts associated with the men. There was also evidence that a woman from California was involved in the human trafficking operation, Clauson explained.

Phones seized during the searches had evidence suggesting communication between the California woman and the St. Louis Park men regarding the arrival of women in the Twin Cities for prostitution, Clauson added.

Upon completion of the investigation, the case will be submitted to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges, Clauson noted.