Charges: Duluth teens forced into prostitution
Two men face sex-trafficking charges after they forced two teenagers from Duluth to engage in prostitution in St. Paul, according to a criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court.
The complaint against Timothy Denzel Cross, 19, of St. Paul and Fonati McArthur Diggs, 24, of Northfield alleges that the men used a knife and a gun to threaten a 16-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman who had arrived in St. Paul on a bus from Duluth last June.
According to the complaint:
The two teenagers were met by Cross and Diggs, who is the 18-year-old’s former boyfriend. They were taken to a Super 8 motel at 1739 Old Hudson Road, St. Paul, and told they were to be prostitutes.
When the 16-year-old objected, Cross held a knife to her throat threatening to harm her and go after her family. The teenagers had sex with several men at the hotel on June 15.
The complaint said the men who had sex with the teenagers included several of Diggs’ friends who paid money to Diggs.
Then the teenagers were taken to an apartment in St. Paul where Diggs and Cross tried to put the teenagers on the street to work as prostitutes. Cross threatened the 18-year-old with a handgun by holding it against her face.
The 16-year-old ran away. But the 18-year-old performed sex acts on about 10 strangers in the course of the week and with several gang associates of Diggs and Cross.
At one point, on June 21, Cross punched the 18-year-old repeatedly in the face because he was upset that she did not make any money that day.
The complaint said police interviewed another woman who knew Diggs and Cross. The woman said she saw the 18-year-old from Duluth “working Payne Avenue (in St. Paul)” as a prostitute, the complaint said.
The woman “stated she intervened to help” the teenager by posting escort ads on Backpage.com so that the teenager “could make her own money to get away from Diggs and Cross and get home, and so that she could have better clientele,” the complaint said. The woman said the teenager called police from her home.
In addition to the sex-trafficking charges, Cross also was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and illegal possession of a firearm.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said:
“President Obama said it best — sex trafficking is modern-day slavery. With these two cases, we have now prosecuted 12 sex-trafficking cases this year — the vast majority of which involve victims who are runaway children under the age of 18 from throughout Minnesota and neighboring states. We will aggressively prosecute these cases and deliver a strong message that we will not tolerate sex trafficking in our community.”