- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The first sentence has been handed down from an online sex trafficking sting on the North Dakota oil patch that has netted 14 arrests.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland on Tuesday sentenced Clayton Lakey, 34, of Billings, Montana, to five years in prison, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. Lakey must register as a sex offender.

Thirteen others are facing charges in the investigation known as “Operation Vigilant Guardian,” which was centered in Dickinson and Williston in October and November. Most of the defendants are believed to have to come to work in the oil patch from out of state.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon said Wednesday he was “deeply troubled” about the number of people arrested for trying to arrange sex with underage girls.

“Human trafficking is, sadly, a growing concern in North Dakota,” Purdon said.

Neil Fulton, head of the federal public defender’s office in the Dakotas, said most of the sex trafficking cases his office has handled involve stings with “no live person” being solicited.

“Rather than discovering a crime, the operation creates the crime by putting out online advertisements. That was the case here,” Fulton said.

The indictments accuse the defendants of knowingly attempting to “recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain and maintain by any means” a female minor for sex. Affidavits with details about the case have remained sealed after prosecutors warned that further information might jeopardize the safety of undercover agents.

Authorities say Lakey agreed in conversations by computer and text to pay for sex with a person he thought was a juvenile. He was arrested at a Dickinson hotel on Nov. 23.

The indictment against Lakey was unsealed on the same day that U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota introduced legislation meant to crack down on sex trafficking. U.S. Reps. Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota, and Erik Paulsen, of Minnesota, joined North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem earlier this week to discuss the issue with law enforcement officials and organizations in the Williston area.

Lakey pleaded guilty Tuesday to coercion and enticement of a minor. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The investigation was conducted by Project Safe Childhood, a federal initiative launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide