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Accused sex trafficker faces additional charges in Hennepin County

A man accused of running a nationwide sex trafficking operation out of the Twin Cities area faces four additional charges in Hennepin County stemming from an ongoing Washington County investigation.

Ricky Arlen Turner Jr. faces two felony charges of engaging in sex with a trafficked individual and two felony charges of prostituting an individual in Hennepin county following similar charges filed last month in Washington County.

In addition to those charges, Turner also faces felony charges in Washington County for promoting prostitution and trafficking a minor, along with two felony racketeering charges, all filed in May.

Those charges stem from an undercover police investigation in Woodbury.

A court complaint filed June 22 in Hennepin County identified the Washington County investigation as probable cause for the new charges.

“Trafficking young women into the sex trade is reprehensible,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement Friday. “County attorneys around the state are working harder to prosecute them. In the case of Mr. Turner, we are cooperating with the Washington County Attorney, who also has brought charges against him.”

Brittany Marie Harenza of Minnetonka faces felony aiding and abetting charges in the same Washington County case. Prosecutors allege Harenza played a complicit role in recruiting trafficking victims online.

A Woodbury detective traced more than 1,500 escort advertisements on Backpage.com to Harenza's phone number.

Police monitored the couple’s lakefront rental home where they noted frequent, short-term traffic to an attached guest house, an indication of commercial sex operations.

Woodbury police arrested Harenza during a sting operation at the Country Inn & Suites May 15.

Minnetonka police arrested Turner later that day while executing a search warrant of the couple's home. Officers found Turner at the home with two local high school students, one of whom was a minor.

According to the Washington County complaint, the girl told police that Turner approached her in a Chipotle restaurant where he identified himself as a "pimp" and told her he would buy her a car if she worked for him.

The Hennepin County complaint details similar recruitment methods.

One woman told police Harenza approached her at a bus stop and told she could make money through commercial sex.

The woman said she paid Harenza and Turner a $2,000 fee to work for them in November 2016. She worked for them until March.

During that time, the woman said Turner would confiscate most of the money she earned. He required her to earn $1,000 each day or he would not give her money for food, the complaint said.

She also told police Turner and Harenza forced her to live at their home so she would be more available for commercial sex appointments. She said Turner physically assaulted her numerous times, threatened her when she tried to leave and told her he would kill her during a trip the two took to Miami.

Turner remains detained in Washington County in lieu of $500,000 bail. Harenza was released on bail.

Turner faces a maximum sentence of 15 years and $40,000 for each Hennepin County charge.

Imran Ali, major crimes prosecutor with Washington County, declined to comment on whether Harenza and Turner's operation is still functioning due to authorities’ ongoing investigation of the case.

"In a sex trafficking case, especially one of this magnitude, there are a lot of layers and a lot of individuals involved," Ali said. "Sometimes an investigation just needs to play out."

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