Prolific sex trafficker pleads guilty, sentenced to total of 22 years in prison

Thursday,

Ricky Turner, a prolific sex-trafficker, pleaded guilty to running his operation out of a Minnetonka home and was sentenced to 22 years in prison, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.

Turner, 29, of Brooklyn Center, pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking and another count of promotion of prostitution Wednesday afternoon. He was immediately sentenced to eight years in prison and that will run consecutive to the 14 years he received for sex-trafficking in Washington County. He was sentenced on the Washington County charges on Dec. 21.

The guilty pleas were the result of investigations by Woodbury and Minnetonka Police Departments and initial charges by the Washington County Attorney’s Office after arrests there. Federal agencies also assisted in the investigation.

“This is the model we are using in our focus on sex-trafficking crimes,” Freeman said. “People like Mr. Turner are mobile so we are working across county lines with anyone who can help us bring these people to justice. And we also work hard to offer the women under the control of the sex-traffickers a way out.  We are pleased with this outcome.”

A year ago, police noticed an advertisement with a woman in lingerie advertising herself for commercial sex in backpage.com. The telephone number belonged to 25-year-old Brittany Harenza. Woodbury police obtained records from backpage.com indicating 1,600 ads involving more than 35 women from November 2015 to May 15, 2017 associated with Harenza’s number

 Further investigation turned up Harenza’s Facebook page which led investigators to posts about Turner. Those posts indicated he was promoting the prostitution of several women, including Harenza. Turner and Harenza were living in a home at 2815 McKenzie Point in Minnetonka and police surveillance revealed they were receiving many visitors for short time periods, especially at a detached guest house, the complaint states.

Minnetonka police, in conjunction with other local departments, also found two other women who worked for Turner. One of them described how Turner and Harenza approached her at a bus stop in November 2016 and told her how she could make money as a prostitute. Turner forced her to live at the Minnetonka home and beat her if she tried to leave. He also took her to another state and forced her to work there, according to the complaint. She said she earned more than $100,000 in the four months she worked for Turner and was forced to turn over nearly all the money to him.

At his court hearing Wednesday, Turner admitted to recruiting the young women into working for him, setting up their backpage.com ads, trafficking them in commercial sex work and taking most of the money they made.

Harenza was charged in Washington County with one count of aiding and abetting engaging in the business of concealing criminal proceeds and aiding and abetting racketeering. Her next court appearance is Feb. 8. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office also is considering whether to charge her.