Four arrested in Bemidji child sex trafficking sting

Seven Bemidji-area law enforcement officers posed as juveniles in a child sex-trafficking and prostitution sting that led to the arrest of four Minnesota men, authorities said Thursday.

Police arrested a 62-year-old Apple Valley man, a 24-year-old Alexandria man and two Bemidji men, 59 and 52 years old, following the March 7 operation.

The undercover effort was the first of its kind for the Bemidji Police Department. But Police Chief Mike Mastin said it may not be the last.

"Our ultimate goal is we want to stop people from harming children," he said.

Investigators researched websites often used for solicitation, including Backpage and Craigslist, Mastin added.

Doing so helped the sting operation, Mastin said, but it's not a key to ending sex trafficking because ads are posted and removed all of the time.

"Unless you have someone actively watching them," Mastin said, "for us to be able to intercept something like that is very difficult."

The Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, the Paul Bunyan Drug Task Force, Minneapolis Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension assisted in the investigation.