A prostitution sting resulted in eight arrests Thursday night in Grand Forks.
The Grand Forks Police Department conducted the operation by putting advertisements on Backpage.com, a classified advertising website. The arrests were made at a local hotel after the men allegedly met with a female undercover police officer, according to Lt. Dwight Love of the Grand Forks Police Department.
The eight men were arrested on suspicion of "hiring an individual to engage in sexual activity," which is a Class B misdemeanor, according to a daily booking sheet.
Two of the arrested men appeared in Grand Forks County District Court Friday afternoon. William Andrew Selby Jr., 19, pleaded guilty and will perform 30 hours of community service along with one year of unsupervised probation. Another man, Mohan Kumar Magar, 32, required an interpreter and his initial appearance was rescheduled for Feb. 19.
The other men, Scott Kenneth Anderson, 33, Dustin Anthony Hiott, 28, Jeloni Antonio Hudson, 19, Jason Scott Peterka, 44, Nicolas Gonzalez Jr., 36, and Liban Bashir Adan, 27, did not appear in court Friday.
Some of the men have relatively minor criminal histories in North Dakota, including traffic citations and financial crimes, as well as misdemeanor disorderly conduct or simple assault. Others have no prior criminal history in this state.
Love said Grand Forks police performed a couple of similar operations last year, and plan to do more this year. He said their ad netted between 30 and 40 responses.
"Quite honestly, we could probably do it once a week for a while and get that many," he said. "We were pretty shocked by the level of responses we got.
“If we keep continuing to get this kind of response, I would anticipate we would continue to do it,” he added.
The local arrests follow the arrest of 17 men in Bismarck earlier this month. In that case, an online advertisement generated 65 responses, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
Prostitution arrests in North Dakota have increased over the past few years as some law enforcement agencies struggle to keep up, a recent Forum News Service project found.
Still, Love said he wasn't sure if prostitution is becoming more of a problem in the Grand Forks area.
"It's just something recently that we're focused on," he said. “But it is something we’re going to focus on in the future.”