State police say child prostitution exists in state; arrests announced

Feb 6, 2014 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A child sex sting operation by the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has resulted in federal felony charges against five men.

Robert Leazenby, a Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent, leads the ICAC task force headquartered in Cheyenne. He told The Associated Press this week that his agency posted advertisements last summer on websites that feature classified personals.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court against one of the defendants, the ICAC team ran one such ad on the Internet advertising site Craigslist under the heading "Traveling Dad."

"Showing my bros offspring this wonderful state with so much opportunity for learning," the ad read. "We are from the south and have never been to the west before but her and I are open to meet new people."

Leazenby said the response was voluminous.

According to court records, ICAC agents assumed different personas, discussing what sex acts they would allow on children in their care. Once the men arrived at the agreed-upon hotel rooms or other locations, they were arrested.

Leazenby said the Wyoming ICAC team decided to post the advertisements because online solicitation of children for sex is a problem throughout the country.

"We wanted to see if there was again a need to do these types of cases. So we threw up an advertisement and we were inundated, so clearly there was a need," Leazenby said.

Leazenby said the response to the advertisements indicates that child prostitution is occurring in Wyoming.

The FBI announced Tuesday that it had rescued 16 juveniles who had been forced into prostitution in the New York City area in the weeks before the Super Bowl. Officials said the children, some of whom had been reported missing by their families, ranged in age from 13 to 17.

Jim Anderson, prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in Cheyenne, has prosecuted online solicitation cases stemming from the ICAC investigations. He said dealing with child trafficking is a priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.

"The fact of the matter is the individual responded to the ad and expressed interest in having sex with a child," Anderson said.

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