St. Joseph County Police using fake online ads in sex trafficking stings that lead to arrests, possible leads

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By: Krystal Vivian kvivian@953mnc.com

Police are setting up stings and answering online advertisements for underage prostitutes in an effort to fight child sex trafficking in St. Joseph County.

Two recent stings in St. Joseph County resulted in two arrests and more than 100 leads to other possible suspects, WSBT reported.

Vinal Rodriguez, 32, of Syracuse was arrested Thursday, Oct. 8, after he answered an online ad and agreed to meet with an undercover police officer to have sex with 12 and 14-year-old girls in St. Joseph County, according to WSBT.

When he arrived at the meeting place, he drove around it several times before going inside. He offered to buy condoms after the officer learned he didn’t bring any.

He was charged with one count of human trafficking and two counts of child solicitation, charges that carry a combined sentence of up to 36 years in prison.

Patrick Zimmer, 28, of Mishawaka was arrested in August and charged with human trafficking and child solicitation during a similar sting.

Police are focusing on posting fake ads and answering real ones on Craigslist.com and Backpage.com, websites commonly associated with prostitution and human trafficking.

More than 100 people responded to the fake ads posted that resulted in the arrests of Rodriguez and Zimmer and police are now investigating the phone numbers that responded via text message, WSBT reported.

“We’re not going to tolerate this anymore in St. Joseph County and we’re making a concerted effort to make sure we’re putting ourselves between the bad guys and our children,” St. Joseph County cyber crimes prosecutor Eric Tamashasky told WSBT.