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Ex-con guilty of pimping teen girls online

Twin Cities, MN|Sex-Trafficking Minors|Add Comment
By: Paul Walsh, Star Tribune

A 40-year-old felon from Burnsville has been convicted in federal court of running a multistate prostitution ring out of the Twin Cities, advertising underage girls for sex using their nude photos in Backpage and Craigslist online ads.

In a retrial granted to Arthur J. Chappell, jurors in Minneapolis found the defendant guilty Wednesday of two counts of sex trafficking a minor, possessing child pornography, conspiracy to produce child pornography and a host of related counts.

"The trafficking of children for sex and the production and possession of child pornography are among the most deplorable crimes our Homeland Security special agents investigate," Michael Feinberg, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations, St. Paul office, said in a statement following the verdicts. "Today's conviction is fitting for someone who's robbed a child of their innocence and created a permanent record of victimization."

Federal prosecutors contended during the trial that in the summer of 2007, Chappell recruited two girls younger than 18 to perform sex acts for money as part of his prostitution ring. One of the girls, from Richfield, testified that Chappell had threatened and sexually assaulted her.

In addition, according to prosecutors, Chappell possessed visual depictions of a minor engaged in sex acts and forced minors to participate in the production of pornography. He promoted his prostitution operation through Craigslist and Backpage websites by posting nude photos of the girls in ads, the prosecution said during trial.

Authorities closed in on Chappell in June 2007, when Bloomington police staked out the Homewood Suites and discovered four women in a hotel room rented to him.

In January of this year, Chappell had his conviction in the case and 28-year prison sentenced overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals, with the panel explaining that the U.S. District Court erroneously instructed jurors that they could find Chappell guilty if he knew or acted in reckless disregard of the fact that the person he recruited was younger than 18.

Chappell's criminal history also includes convictions for sexual assault of a minor, theft, second-degree assault, disorderly conduct, identity theft and promoting prostitution.

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