Sunday: Minneapolis cops bust ‘nice guys’ sex ring

Sunday: Minneapolis cops bust ‘nice guys’ sex ring
In an unusual scheme, a former Hennepin County lawyer worked as a pimp, flying in high-dollar prostitutes for well-off men, police say.

By DAVID CHANEN, Star Tribune
Last update: June 10, 2009 – 8:21 AM

They call themselves “The Minnesota Nice Guys,” a group of at least 30 older, well-to-do men who police say share a common love of expensive prostitutes. Their alleged pimp is a former assistant Hennepin County attorney once responsible for locking up the justice system’s most unstable criminals and protecting its youngest victims.

The Nice Guys have been enjoying the services of prostitutes for three years, police say, getting weekly e-mail blasts that advertise women who are flying into town from Florida and staying at some of Minneapolis’ finest hotels. One woman, a 34-year-old former teacher from Colombia, averaged four appointments a day, charging her clients $500 an hour.

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Violent Offender Task Force has been building a federal case against the organization for the past year. Investigators say it is one of the most unusual prostitution rings they have ever seen in Minnesota and that its activities show just how sophisticated sex-trafficking networks to the state are becoming.

“I don’t know of anything this organized happening anywhere in the country,” said Sgt. Matt Wente. “This was like a gun or fishing club to these men.”

Police have been shutting down the Minnesota Nice Guys in recent weeks through raids and questioning of members. The crackdown follows a lengthy investigation that included monitoring e-mail accounts, extensive surveillance, and having some undercover officers infiltrate the Nice Guys network. Its alleged ringleader, former attorney John St. Marie, is expected to be federally charged for transporting women across state lines for sex, police said.

Wente and his partner, Sgt. Grant Snyder, have recently detained and questioned six other Nice Guys but plan to go after them all. The investigation started after investigators received an anonymous e-mail from a john who said St. Marie was supplying illegal immigrants for prostitution.

According to police, the e-mailer made contact with St. Marie at the Erotic Review, an international website for self-described “hobbyists” looking for high-dollar escorts. On the site, St. Marie, 65, had “high status” because he was frequently praised in reviews for the quality of women he arranged to come to Minnesota, Snyder said.

St. Marie declined to comment when contacted by the Star Tribune. His attorney, Jim Dahlquist, said Friday that St. Marie is “looking forward to having a fair opportunity to bring forth the issues involved in this case.” He said he was reluctant to speculate on what charges could be forthcoming.

Dahlquist said he’s concerned that St. Marie will be treated with prejudice because of his background as an attorney with Hennepin County. During his county employment St. Marie was recognized with plaques for his excellent work, said Dahlquist, who has known him for 40 years.

Hotel sex, then son’s ballgame

The Nice Guys, made up of business owners, lawyers, accountants and mortgage bankers in their early 40s to mid-60s, began communicating by e-mail. Snyder said the group was called the Nice Guys because members had clean backgrounds and regarded themselves as trustworthy to not mistreat the women.

St. Marie booked the women’s flights and hotel rooms for their typical five-day stays and scheduled trysts for the other Nice Guys, police say. None of the women was forced into prostitution, but Snyder explained many fell into the business because they needed money. None of them is from the United States.

Prostitution is dangerous business. One of the Nice Guys arrested was in illegal possession of a gun, police say. A woman working as an escort with another service was killed at a Minneapolis hotel two years ago.

“I disagree with the premise that these women were treated well because they agreed to be escorts,” said Lt. Andy Smith, head of the Violent Offender Task Force. “It’s not just a simple case of prostitution.”

Other law enforcement agencies have unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate the Nice Guys, Smith said.

Link to original on Star Tribune


1 Comment

  1. Great. Big, tough police. Bet they feel accomplished for persecuting adults having consensual sex behind closed doors. Meanwhile, in 2007, there were 1,873 reported forced* rapes** in MN, but only 125 arrests for forced rape***. Shows me that arresting women is preferable to protecting them in MN.

    *Forced rapes don’t include sexual assault.

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