MINNEAPOLIS -- Authorities are looking for suspects and potential victims in a Minnesota-based prostitution ring allegedly linked to Somali gangs that stretches to Tennessee, according to a search warrant affidavit briefly unsealed in state court in St. Paul.
The document, filed last Friday and obtained by KSTP-TV before it was placed under seal, alleges a 15-year-old girl was being controlled by Somali gangs and "promoted into prostitution." The document describes the sex ring as "large scale."
On Thursday, authorities with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the St. Paul Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement referred questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Tennessee. Assistant U.S. Attorney Van Vincent said he could neither confirm nor deny that an investigation exists.
But the affidavit by Ann Quinn, a special agent with the BCA and a member of an ICE task force, said she spoke with police, witnesses and others "in connection with a large scale Somalian gang Human Trafficking ring based in Minnesota."
Dahir Jibreel, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, said he was looking into the possible connection between Minnesota and Tennessee, and he planned to talk with some girls who may have been victims.
He said Somali girls, especially when new to the country, are at a serious risk. He said they are often faced with language barriers or confusing cultural differences, and many are poor and could be lured into danger by a small amount of money.
"This is exploiting a vulnerable community," he said. "It is an organized crime and they are victimizing a population that is already vulnerable."