Six arrests have been made as a result of a sex trafficking operation targeting online predators during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which ran from Aug. 6-15.
At least three of the men live in the area and another is described as an Airman with the U.S. Air Force.
The joint sex trafficking operation involved the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Pennington County Sheriff's Office and Rapid City Police Department.
During the operation, law enforcement placed multiple advertisements on online websites and mobile applications to communicate with online predators.
Various apps were used during the operation, including Skout, MeetMe and Whisper, as well as the website fetlife.com.
The operation resulted in the following felony arrests:
Jesse James Young, 36, of Box Elder, is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Young was arrested in the area of Taco Bell after sending a message and digital photographs that were sexual in nature to a DCI agent using an undercover persona of a 13-year-old girl.
Young responded by "liking an age-regressed picture of a female in the early morning hours of Aug. 7," according to the court affidavit. "After exchanging messages on the internet application Scout, Young began sending sexual text messages to the persona, who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, before traveling to the area of West Middle School to meet with the minor female. "In addition, two other agents were also chatting with Young starting on August 7, 2021, also posing as minor females," the affidavit states. "Young also admitted to engaging in those chats and admitted knowing they were minors and the communications were sexual in nature." Young has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is being held in custody.
Stephen Gregory Fontenot Jr., of Black Hawk, is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Fontenot sent a message to a 12-year-old persona on Aug. 8 though the application MeetMe, which is used for dating and "hookups," an affidavit states. "Fontenot asked the agent's persona to have sex with him in the woods and to meet him at his house to have sex. The agent's persona was not willing to do that and agreed to meet with Fontenot first behind a hotel in Summerset before taking the persona into the woods to have sex. On Aug. 10 at 10:45 p.m., Fontenot showed up at the meet location and was then placed under arrest."
"Stephen was in possession of condoms at the time he was stopped, the affidavit states. Fontenot denied any intentions of having sex with the girl, claiming to law enforcement officers that he went to the meeting spot to counsel the girl instead."
"In my experience, that is a common assertion by arrestees in these types of cases," Robert Espinosa, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, stated in the affidavit. Fontenot has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
James Dean Hanapel, 20, is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Hanapel is an Airman First Class with the United States Air Force, the affidavit states. "Hanapel and a 14-year-old persona began communicating via MeetMe on Aug. 10, which progressed into text messaging on Aug. 12. Shortly after text messaging commenced, Hanapel was informed by the persona that she was only 14 years old.
"Thereafter, Hanapel expressed his concern about getting in trouble and stated he could go to jail. Further, Hanapel followed his statements of concern with a sexually driven conversation with the undercover female minor," the affidavit states.
"During the conversation, Hanapel sought to meet the minor to engage in the above acts. The meeting was set at a location in Rapid City. When Hanapel appeared at the location he was arrested.
"Hanapel was later interviewed and acknowledged that the minor told him she was only 14 years of age, that he had made the aforementioned statements in the chats and that his intention was to have sex with the 14-year-old female minor," the affidavit states. Hanapel was granted conditional release on Aug. 16. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Clayton John Paulson, 36, of Spearfish, is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Paulson began communicating with a 15-year-old persona on Aug. 11 via Whisper, an online application.
"Over the course of the conversations Paulson was suspicious this was a law enforcement sting and asked for pictures in an attempt determine if this was a law enforcement operation," the affidavit states. "On August 12, 2021, Paulson and the 15-year-old persona agreed to meet in the area of West Middle School in Rapid City. Paulson arrived driving a pickup pulling a trailer as he described in the chat communications. Paulson was arrested and interviewed, during which he admitted that he was sending "inappropriate" messages but contended he was not intending to have sex with the 15-year-old. Paulson was then taken into custody and granted conditional release on Aug. 16. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Christopher Thomas Dahl is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Investigator Jesse Fagerland posted an event on fetlife.com on Aug. 7, titled "Motorcycle Rally Fun." Fagerland described the event with emojis, including a school crossing sign, double heart, triple heart, cherries and a tongue. "These emojis are sometimes used by sex traffickers to communicate sexual exploitation," the affidavit states. Dahl text messaged Fagerland to inquire about the event on Aug. 10. "When asked if Christopher was okay with a 14-year-old, Christopher stated he was and further stated 'I absolutely love the younger the better'," the affidavit states. "Additionally, in the text messages, Christopher agreed to meet the undercover persona to pay $250 to have sex with the 14-year-old girl with no condom." Dahl was given a meet location and arrived later that night. When approaching the undercover agent's vehicle, Dahl displayed the $250 in cash.
"Law Enforcement converged on the vehicle and took Christopher into custody," the affidavit states. "While being interviewed, Christopher stated he did not have intentions of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. He advised he was trying to save the girl." Dahl has pleaded not guilty.
Anthony James Kemp is charged with enticement of a minor using the internet. Kemp, 55, began communicating with a 15-year-old female persona through the app MeetMe on Aug. 10. Kemp sought to meet with the minor to engage in sexual acts that he had described in previous messages. Kemp was taken into custody after arriving at the meet location, after which he admitted to specific messages and acknowledged that the minor told him she was only 15. Kemp has pleaded not guilty.