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SUPERIOR - Sex trafficking is alive and thriving across the Northland. But a Twin Ports undercover bust just two weeks ago has authorities hoping to deter other suspects from committing the crime.
Superior police took the lead on this week-long online sting earlier this month. The operation focused on crimes involving human trafficking, child enticement and prostitution.
In all, six men are behind bars, and advocates against such violence were applauding the bust Tuesday.
The ages of the suspects range from 29 to 70 years old – all from the Twin Ports and surrounding areas and all charged with sex crimes – mostly prostitution:
-Lawrence Albert DePaulis, 70 years old, from Nashwauk, MN (Prostitution)-John Walter Kontny, 51 years old, from Superior, WI (Prostitution)-David Leon McCloud, 29 years old, from Duluth, MN (Prostitution)-Wayne Morris Everette, 60 years old, from Cloquet, MN (Prostitution)-Kale Steven Edinger, 37 years old, from Phillips, WI (Prostitution)
-Ronald Eugene Provost, a 51 years old, from Foxboro, WI (Felony Child Enticement)
"It's so close to home and yet we don't want to believe something so terrible is happening and it's occasions like this that really help bring light to that -- that no, really. -- this is something that happens in our community," explained Kayden Norwood, with the Center Against Sexual & Domestic Abuse (CASDA).
Norwood said this undercover online sting by Superior police is just one way to try to stop the serious concern of human trafficking.
"Whether it's by choice in the beginning or it's a family member that's selling them into this business; They're being enticed or coerced in some way to doing this, and then there's no way out and they're trapped and there's nowhere for them to turn," Norwood explained.
Superior Deputy Chief Nicholas Alexander calls the bust "alarming" and said "the fact that so many were arrested in a short time frame suggests the market is ripe with willing and paying customers."
Meanwhile the department and anti-violence advocates are hoping the recent arrests will send a strong message to other men that paying for sex is not only illegal but most likely feeding the victimization of trafficked women.
"Brings awareness to this happening in our community and being like look, this actually happened and we can prove it," Norwood said.
The suspects were being held Tuesday in the Douglas County Jail. A prostitution charge comes with a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to nine months in prison.
For victim resources in Superior, log on to CASDA.org. And in Duluth, log on to PAVSA.org.