9 arrested in child sex trafficking sting

October 21, 2014

EAU CLAIRE Nine people have been arrested in a child sex trafficking sting in the Eau Claire area, according to authorities.

Police released more details about the sting at a Monday morning press conference. Nine men, ranging in age from 20 to 60, were arrested on preliminary charges of use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, attempted child enticement and attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child, the La Crosse Tribune (http://bit.ly/1t4JNc8 ) reported.

Investigators posed as children looking for sex, or as an adult wanting to traffic a child for sex through fake online advertisements, they said. The men were arrested Thursday and Friday after they responded to an ad, according to police. One of the men was a former youth pastor at an Eau Claire church and another is also facing charges related to the possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, authorities said.

The Eau Claire police and sheriff's departments, the Altoona Police Department and the state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation participated in the undercover operation.

Many of the men are expected to appear in court for the first time Monday.

At the press conference, Robert Powell, special agent in charge with the state Division of Criminal Investigation, suggested several ways parents can help protect their children online. He said parents should keep computers in a common area of the house, monitor their children's activity online and talk to them about Internet safety.

"We know today these people are still out there," Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer said.

Five people were arrested in a similar sting last year.

"Our message to the predators is we are monitoring these sites, and you'll never know who you're talking to," Cramer said.

Associated Press