Wisconsin pastor among 6 arrested in St. Paul-Stillwater prostitution of minors sting

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A sting operation this week in St. Paul and Stillwater led to the arrest of six people who now face felony charges in connection with attempting to solicit minors for sex or trafficking.

Undercover agents posed as minors or sex buyers on social media and made arrangements to meet the adults. When the adults arrived, they were arrested, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

One of the men, Jason James Taylor, is a pastor at Calvary Chapel Solid Rock in New Richmond, Wis. Taylor, 47, of New Richmond, was arrested and booked into Washington County jail on suspicion of felony solicitation of a minor for prostitution.

The Washington County criminal complaint gave the following details:

During the sting operation, an undercover officer posted an ad with a phone number on a known commercial sex website with a “decoy” picture of a girl appearing to be under 18. The undercover officer then contacted the people who called the number in the ad.

Authorities say Taylor was one of those who called.

During text conversations with the undercover officer, he agreed to pay $80 for a sex act. The undercover officer, acting as the girl, then said she was 17 years old. Taylor asked for a photo in a specific pose to confirm he was talking to a real person. After the photo was sent, Taylor confirmed he was OK with the girl being 17. The undercover agent gave Taylor the hotel’s address and room number. When he arrived on that floor, he was met by officers who arrested him, according to the criminal complaint.

Another church official, Pastor Brian Sullivan, said Friday night that because it was an ongoing legal issue, he was limited in any comment he could make.

“It’s a sensitive issue and we are praying for the Taylor family,” he said. “We are doing everything we can to support the family. Our role is to maintain the dignity of the family as best we can. It’s a sad thing. This is a lose-lose scenario for the community and the people impacted by it. The worst thing is what this will do to his family — and the church family.”

The operation, which took place Wednesday and Thursday, was a joint investigation by the BCA-led Human Trafficking Investigators Task Force, the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force and the Tribes United Against Sex Trafficking Task Force.

Authorities said they were able to rescue four victims of sex trafficking during the operation, but did not provide details.

According to the BCA, in addition to Taylor, the following suspects were arrested and booked into Washington County jail on suspicion of felony solicitation of a minor under 18 for prostitution:

  • Jeremiah Exzavier Brown, 30, of Eden Prairie.

  • Michel Libese Mbula, 47, of Kansas City, Mo.

  • Esteban Isaac Trejo-Dominguez, 21, of Columbia Heights.

  • Peng Yang, 28, of St. Paul.

In addition, Daville Shalik Wideman, 23, of Memphis, Tenn., was booked into Ramsey County jail on suspicion of promotion of prostitution or sex trafficking.

“While this operation is over, our work goes on,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “We will continue to pursue and arrest these criminals who exploit and victimize our children for sex.”

Authorities said if you or someone you know is in immediate danger of being trafficked, call 911. To report a suspected trafficking situation, call the BCA at 877-996-6222 or email bca.tips@state.mn.us.

“These arrests demonstrate that the market for juvenile commercial sex is not confined to limited segments of society,” said Washington County Attorney Kevin Magnuson. “The buyers come from all walks of life and each are responsible for the tremendous harm to the victims, their families and the public that sex trafficking causes.”

Mara Gottfried and Mary Divine contributed to this report.

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