Federal officials have charged 11 men with sex trafficking of children following a sting in western North Dakota.
Devin Schaner, 22; Ramont Thomas, 28; Rafael Torres, 32; and Lawrence Hundley Jr., 50, were charged Friday with sex trafficking of children or by force, fraud or coercion.
Milton Davis, 50; Justin Hess, 32; Charles Hood, 43; Clayton Lakey, 34; Justin Mattson, 41, Celestino Valle, 18; and Zachary Wolff, 21, were charged Monday with the same offense.
U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon calls the number of arrests "very concerning."
The arrests were part of an operation in which federal and state law enforcement officers, posing as online sex traffickers, offered underage girls for sex in the Dickinson area. Officials arrested three men in Williston last month in a similar effort.
“Anyone who does not realize that our hometowns in western North Dakota are developing big-city crime problems has not been paying attention. The results of this operation are just further evidence of these stark changes,” Purdon said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Miller sealed affidavits and complaints in the case at the request of prosecutors, who warned that further information might jeopardize the safety of undercover agents.
The charges against the men carry mandatory minimum prison sentences of at least 10 years in prison.
While some of the men are believed to be from out of state, others appear to be North Dakota residents. Jail booking information or unrelated court documents say Schaner is from Mandan, Thomas from Dickinson, Hundley from Mott, and Hood from Dickinson. Similar information lists Davis as being from Casper, Wyo., Mattson from Olvia, Minn., Valle from Fort Smith, Ark., and Wolff as from Pflugerville, Texas.
In court on Tuesday, officials said Torres may be in the country illegally. No information was available for Lakey and Hess.