Reporting Edward Moody
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Four metro area men are facing charges connected to an underage prostitution ring in south Minneapolis.
Authorities made the bust at a home on the 4600 block of 3rd Avenue South late last month. Minneapolis Police and Homeland Security say the man living there, 55-year-old Bernard Morris, not only set up meetings between the girls and the johns, but he demanded sexual favors from the girls in return.
Officers used phone surveillance to catch Morris. They then used Morris to catch the johns who were seeking out 16-and 15-year-old girls, police say.
A Quiet Neighborhood
Looking around the quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood, you wouldn’t suspect anything sinister.
“Crime is not a word that occurs to me when I am asked to describe my neighborhood at all,” said Sherry Pittman, a resident.
But some neighbors say that one house on 3rd Avenue has been a problem for months.
“Prostitution, drugs, folks coming and going. That kind of thing,” Pittman said.
Pittman says she and other neighbors have complained to police for about a year – and thought nothing was being done.
“We were concerned, because it is a nice neighborhood,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of little kids in this neighborhood, and we didn’t want anything to go down and the little kids get hurt.”
About two months ago police got a tip that Morris, the man living there, was picking up runaways and selling them for sex. They listened to his phone calls and overheard him offering his home for underage prostitution in exchange for sex.
“Young girls, particularly as we understand in this case, young girls who had just run away from a treatment program, they’re particularly vulnerable; and this guy somehow picked them up and got them started on the wrong road,” said Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney.
With Morris’ cooperation, police tracked down three other men who were willing to come to his home for sex with girls they thought were 15-and 16-years-old.
Thanh Bui, of Eagan, Phuoc Phong Le, of Shakopee, and Kham Luu, also from Eagan, all face felony charges for soliciting sex from a minor. The maximum these men could get, if convicted, is 15 years in prison.
But the reality is that they likely won’t get that much prison time for a first time offense.
Morris faces three felony counts: two for solicitation, inducement and promotion of prostitution and one for prostitution.
Police monitored phone calls in this case. But will that stand up in court?
In Minnesota, only one party has to agree to have the call monitored for it to be legal. In this case, the victims — the young girls — were aware the call was being monitored: They agreed to it.