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Bend police make 28 arrests during 4-month operation targeting those seeking sex with minors

Ads posted online by officers posing as minors; some brought drugs, alcohol to meeting place

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend Police)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend police said Thursday they made 28 arrests during a four-month operation aimed at combating human trafficking, sex work and luring of minors, with an emphasis on identifying and arresting people who are attempting to meet underage children for sex. 

Over the course of the project, between May 19 and August 23, 20 adults were arrested for various crimes associated with attempting to lure and engage in sexual acts with minors, police said.

Bend Police officers posted ads online, then posed as minors in both text and phone conversations. Over the course of the project, people at more than 200 distinct phone numbers answered officers’ ads. Many of those people, upon learning they were apparently communicating with a minor, immediately cut off communication. 

However, of the 200-plus people who answered Bend Police’s online ads and learned of a minor child being trafficked for sex, not one subsequently shared that information with law enforcement, police said.

Police said the officers clearly identified themselves as underage. Those arrested then agreed to meet, sometimes bringing drugs and alcohol to the agreed-upon location. Upon arrival, they were taken into custody and lodged on the charges listed below at the Deschutes County Jail.

Arrested

  • Mathieu Ackah, 46-year-old Oxnard, Calif., resident: luring a minor for sexual conduct
  • Christopher Arroway, 30-year-old Bend resident: purchasing sex with a minor, patronizing a prostitute, attempted rape III (arrest #2)
  • Gage Bergeron, 31-year-old Bend resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, attempted rape III, delivery of a controlled substance to a minor (marijuana)
  • David Burnham, 73-year-old Bend resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted rape III
  • Forrest Dodge, 28-year-old Bend resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, attempted sodomy III, purchasing sex with a minor
  • Cody Fortune, 32-year-old Bend resident: luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, attempted rape III
  • Ryan Frye, 23-year-old Bend resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, purchasing sex with a minor
  • Rene Hernandez, 28-year-old Bend resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, attempted sodomy III, purchasing sex with a minor, parole violation, endangering the welfare of a minor
  • Joshua Huddleston, 45-year-old Bend resident: attempted rape III, attempted delivery of a controlled substance to a minor (marijuana)
  • James Kapsalis, 26-year-old Redmond resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, attempted rape III, delivery of marijuana to a minor
  • Miles Leffler, 40-year-old Sisters resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, purchasing sex with a minor
  • Devin Linker, 34-year-old Redmond resident: luring a minor for sexual conduct, online sexual corruption of a child I, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted rape III, patronizing a prostitute
  • Ian McCord, 38-year-old Prineville resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, attempted sodomy III, attempted rape III
  • Jorge Beltran Mendoza, 29-year-old Redmond resident: luring a minor for sexual conduct, online sexual corruption of a child I, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted sodomy III, patronizing a prostitute
  • Waynerd Montgomery, 47-year-old Redmond resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted rape III, escape III, criminal mischief III, resisting arrest
  • Jacob Schneider, 36-year-old Bend resident: luring a minor for sexual conduct, online sexual corruption of a child I, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted rape III, patronizing a prostitute
  • Connor Strupith, 22-year-old Redmond resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, attempted furnishing liquor to a minor
  • Isaac Testerman, 41-year-old Bend resident: purchasing sex with a minor, patronizing a prostitute, attempted rape III
  • Eduardo Vega-Ruiz, 22-year-old Madras resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, patronizing a prostitute, attempted sodomy III, purchasing sex with a minor, attempted rape III, escape III, attempt to elude (felony), attempted assault on a public safety officer, reckless driving
  • Dylan Zook, 20-year-old La Pine resident: online sexual corruption of a child I, luring a minor for sexual conduct, patronizing a prostitute, attempted sodomy III, purchasing sex with a minor

The cases are at various points, according to online court records, with some having not yet entered a plea and others already having pleaded not guilty and trial dates set.

Asked about the operation, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel told NewsChannel 21 his office worked with police on the investigations.

"Crimes against children are my top priority, and we are aggressively prosecuting the people arrested during this project," Hummel said.

However, he also noted that while those arrested face serious felony charges, they were not charged with human trafficking, under that state law.

"The actions of the suspects in these cases did not constitute human trafficking under Oregon law," the DA added. 

Bend Police Communications Manager Sheila Miller acknowledged, "We didn’t arrest any people who recruited/ran a trafficking scheme. We arrested 'johns' who were seeking sex with underage people." 

Asked why then it was labeled by police as a human trafficking operation, Miller told NewsChannel 21, "Because prostitution and sex abuse of underage children are all under the umbrella of human trafficking. These people who were arrested were seeking to have sex with underage sex workers. Underage sex workers are typically part of human trafficking." 

"Our officers found hundreds of people seeking to engage in the illegal sex trade, and many of those people were willing to engage in the illegal sex trade of children," she added.

During the course of the project, police said, several people came forward and identified themselves as victims of sexual abuse at the hands of these suspects. Bend Police are asking the public to contact non-emergency dispatch at 541-693-6911 if you or someone you know is the victim of any of these suspects.

"We know that there are adults who are trying to lure minors and get them to engage in sexual activity. Child sex abuse is a terrible crime and it's important that we get these people off the streets, and make sure those people aren't putting their children in danger."

"Bend Police want our community to know we are proactively investigating these crimes. We will continue to conduct projects like this in the future," Miller stated in the news release. "This outreach will also let potential predators know our community is vigilant. Our goal is to identify traffickers and prevent this activity from taking place in our community. During the operation, Bend Police saw a significant decrease for demand in sex work in our community, and by extension, a decrease in sex workers operating in our community."

"Bend Police also would like to remind parents, guardians and caregivers to stay involved in their children’s digital world, know the apps they are using and implement parental controls when possible. Children should talk with a trusted adult so they understand online risks, only chat with people they know, and make sure their online accounts are private. 

"There are people who target vulnerable youth via online apps and other internet sources, and we have to work together to keep our children safe. "

During the course of this investigation, Bend Police also arrested eight people who attempted to patronize adult sex workers. They were cited and released. Patronizing a prostitute is a Class A misdemeanor."

Article Topic Follows: Crime And Courts
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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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