Eleven local men were arrested in an undercover operation that targeted people using the internet to meet minors for sex during the Sturgis motorcycle rally, according to federal court records unsealed Tuesday and the spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Dakota.
Kenneth Williamson, Sean Gertsch, Hugo Duque, Justin Westby, Graydon Shangreaux, Brennan Hauk, Stanley Lumbardy, Jeric Davis, and Josef Pettit pleaded not guilty after being charged with enticing a minor using the internet, court records show.
Japher Rajab is also charged with enticing a minor using the internet, according to spokeswoman Ace Crawford. His court records are not yet online. Jonathan Whitney is charged with enticing a minor using the internet by a previously convicted sex offender, court records show.
Whitney, 32; Davis, 28; Williamson, 51; Duque, 39; Rajab, 41 and Hauk, 40, are all from Rapid City, according to Crawford. Lumbardy, 68, is from Spearfish; Gertsch, 27, is from Sturgis; Shangreaux, 23, is from White River; Westby, 45, is from Wall while Pettit, 23, is from Piedmont.
If convicted, the men face a minimum of 10 years in prison, according to federal law. As a sex offender, Whitney would face a minimum of 20 years. He was convicted of fourth-degree (statutory) rape in Minnehaha County, admitted to "hands-on sex offenses" in Indiana, and said he has inappropriately touched his girlfriend's 10-year-old sister, according to the affidavit in support of his charge.
Williamson, Duque, Hauk and Stanley have been released from custody while the others remain in jail, court records show. It's unclear if Rajab has been released since his records are not yet available.
The following information and allegations are based on affidavits in support of charging the men, and the use of "girl" and "boy" refer to underage identities created by undercover agents:
The sting involved law enforcement posing as 15-year-old girls and a 15-year-old boy. It ran Aug. 2-8 and was conducted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigations and Internet Crimes Against Children unit, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff's Office and other agencies.
The operation targeted "online predators" by posting or creating profiles on Craigslist and dating and chatting apps including KIK, Grindr, MeetMe and Skout. Not all of the undercover posts and profiles were sexual in nature or mentioned the age 15. But once the men initiated a conversation, they were told they were chatting with a 15-year-old. Many of the men told or asked the minors about specific sex acts and some sent photos of themselves.
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Several of the men said they were worried about getting caught or that they were speaking with a police officer.
Gertsch said his friend was "set up" on the same app he was using a few years ago and asked if he was chatting with a cop.
"You're the kind of girl that would get me put into jail," Westby said.
"Well it is very scary from a legal standpoint. Consent is 16, but I live dangerously," Shangreaux said.
Davis said having sex with a 15-year-old "would cost me my freedom" and life, and asked the girl not to tell anyone about him.
"I'll just have to not say anything to get me in trouble," Pettit said.
Despite their concerns cited in the court documents, the men agreed to meet for sex at locations that included West Middle School and the Canyon Lake Little League fields in Rapid City and outside of Sturgis city limits. Some arrived with alcohol or condoms the undercover officers asked for or sex toys and lingerie.
Most of the men appear to have waived their Miranda rights and admitted to law enforcement they agreed to have sex with a 15-year-old. Westby admitted to chatting with a girl but said he planned to check her ID and wouldn't have had sex with her if she was really a minor. Shangreaux said he knew the girl was a minor and there was no victim since law enforcement created the crime. Davis said he didn't want to be labeled a sexual predator.
While the operation occurred during the Sturgis rally, most of the conversations weren't related to the rally except a few girls who said their parents were away attending the event.