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Foxboro man held after human trafficking sting

A Douglas County man is facing felony charges after being arrested in a human trafficking sting conducted by several local law enforcement agencies.

Ronald Eugene Provost, 51, of Foxboro faces felony charges of child enticement and attempting to cause a child older than 13 to view sexual activity. The enticement charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 25 years imprisonment and up to a $100,000 fine; the other charge carries a maximum penalty of nine years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

According to the criminal complaint:

Provost responded to another online ad posted by the Superior Police Department on Craigslist, supposedly from a younger female. A law enforcement officer typed an email message back to Provost that indicated it was from a 15-year-old girl, but Provost allegedly continued to text with her and set up a meeting Aug. 13 at a Superior hotel. He also allegedly sent a sexually explicit picture to the phone being used by law enforcement officers for the sting.

Provost was arrested after arriving at a hotel where he had arranged to meet the teen outside on his motorcycle.

Provost made an initial appearance in Douglas County Circuit Court on Aug. 14. He remains in custody at the Douglas County Jail. Cash bail of $1,000 was ordered with the condition that he not have any contact with minors. His next court appearance is set for today.

The sting operation, conducted by Superior and Duluth police along with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security, resulted in the arrest of five other Northland men on misdemeanor prostitution charges, authorities announced Tuesday. In each case, a suspect allegedly responded to a fictitious online ad placed by the Superior Police Department offering sexual services for money.

The issue of human trafficking has been getting greater attention nationwide, Superior Deputy Chief Nicholas Alexander said, and the Twin Ports region is not immune.

“Many of those engaged in prostitution are not doing so voluntarily,” Alexander said in a news release. “Someone may be forcing them into these activities by withholding money, drugs or perhaps threatening to take away food and shelter. In other cases the threat or use of physical harm is used. …

“Enforcing the prostitution and solicitation laws is just one way we can help reduce the instances of human trafficking in our communities. Operations like this serve to create a deterrent to those who seek pay-for-sex-services.”