The Winona County Sheriff's Department is noticing a rise in advertisements online inviting people to its county. But these ads aren't to come see the beautiful scenery, they're invitations to meet with prostitutes. And the Sheriff's Department is trying to put a stop to it.
Once investigators and the Winona County Attorney's Office received training in spotting these type of solicitations they began noticing there are quite a few ads, on many different websites, offering sex with prostitutes and sometimes even underage girls in Winona County.
The Sheriff's Office said it wants the message out there that prostitution and human trafficking has no place in their county.
On Thursday July 2, the Winona County Sheriff posted an ad online offering a so-called "two for one special." So while many celebrated their freedom over the 4th of July weekend, Timmy James Dziubak, 46, Burnsville, Minnesota; Deependra Narayan Das, 40, Rochester, Minnesota; Christopher Gerald Chytracek, 47, Chatfield, Minnesota; James Edward Kelly, 57, Wabasha, Minnesota; Barton Anthony Dubak, 40, Burnsville, Minnesota; and Allen Scott Rasmussen, 49, Rochester, Minnesota, came to Winona County and lost their's thanks to what the Sheriff's Department calls Operation Lady Liberty.
"We want to keep these people out of Winona County that are answering the ads," Winona County Chief Deputy Ron Ganrude said.
He said this sting operation is the second his department has done in the past two weeks. The first offered sex with a 15-year-old girl.
"In that sting we put an online ad out and the ad was answered, we had over 300 hits in a short period of time," Granrude said.
He said of the 300 responses only two men showed up when they learned of girl's age. Both were arrested.
"This is something new to us," Ganrude said.
He said the Sheriff's Department hadn't done a prostitution sting operation like this before and they didn't know what to expect.
"We didn't know if we were going to have zero or how many," Ganrude said.
Ganrude said with the growing number of ads he's discovering online the Sheriff's Department wants to put a stop to it as soon as possible. Especially when it involves under age girls.
"The average age that girls are drawn into this, usually girls, is 12 to 14 years old. That's when they're starting. So obviously that's a big problem and we want to try to eliminate that the best we can," he said.
The Sheriff's Department doesn't want to give any details as far as websites or where these people are being arrested because they will most likely do this type of sting again.
The chief deputy calls the eight arrests made so far a success. He hopes it sends a message that they're watching closely for this type of illegal activity.