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Moorhead police charge two with sex-trafficking 13-year-old

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MOORHEAD — It took just 12 hours.

Moorhead Police Detective Ryan Nelson responded to a suspicious online ad for an “escort” at a south Moorhead motel Wednesday afternoon.

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Just a half-day later, police arrested two suspects in Fargo on criminal charges of prostituting out that so-called escort — a 13-year-old runaway from Brooklyn Center, who allegedly was brought to the area by the suspects.

The victim has since been reunited with her family, while the suspects, Prince Antonio Dequante Jones, 24, of Fargo, and Eyeesha Nicole Hinton, 24, of Minneapolis, sit in Cass County Jail in Fargo. Each has a previous felony conviction for other crimes in Minnesota.

“This job is not always one that’s satisfying,” Moorhead Police Chief David Ebinger said at a Thursday news conference. “But there was a little girl being sold 24 hours ago, and now she’s back home with her family.”

Jones and Hinton are being held for court and will be arraigned in Fargo before being brought over to Clay County on warrants, said Clay County Attorney Brian Melton.

Both face charges of first-degree sex trafficking. State sentencing guidelines call for a prison term upon conviction for first-degree sex trafficking from 7½ to 20 years, depending on an offender’s criminal history.

Ebinger said Nelson checks online ads on a regular basis to look for illegal activity. This ad was found on backpage.com, and the detective probably didn’t know the victim was a minor based on the ad alone, the chief said.

“This unfortunately is not an unusual occurrence,” Ebinger said.

The chief said Fargo-Moorhead is becoming a stopping place for pimps and johns between Minneapolis and the oilfields, and Melton called websites like backpage.com the “street corner of the modern day.”

Once police met the victim at the Moorhead Super 8 Motel, she initially said she was 18 and that her sister and her sister’s boyfriend were waiting outside the motel, according to the police report.

The victim pointed to a red four-door car outside, but that car fled the scene after she used a cellphone to notify the suspects that police were in the room.

Using GPS and cellphone data from calls made between the victim and the suspects, Nelson tracked the suspects to the Grand Inn in Fargo, where police spotted the red car and arrested Jones and Hinton Thursday.

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Erik Burgess
Erik Burgess covers city and county government for The Forum. He started as the paper's night reporter in 2012, after graduating from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He was born and raised in Grand Forks, N.D., and also spent time interning at the Grand Forks Herald.  Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com
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