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4 charged in latest prostitution sting in Duluth

Four people were arraigned Friday in Duluth on prostitution charges, the result of the latest effort by local authorities to crack down on Internet-based sex sales.

Four people were arraigned Friday in Duluth on prostitution charges, the result of the latest effort by local authorities to crack down on Internet-based sex sales.

Investigators from the Lake Superior Drug and Violent Crime Task Force conducted the sting operation at a Duluth motel on Wednesday, arresting a woman and three men who allegedly used classified advertisement website Backpage.com to arrange sex for pay.

As technology has made it easier than ever for prostitutes to connect with johns, police have sought to crack down on online ads through sites such as Backpage. The task force in March conducted a similar, two-day operation that resulted in the arrests of 15 people.

"Technology has definitely given it a boost," Duluth police Lt. Jeff Kazel told the News Tribune at the time. "There is a growing trend for this and it definitely needs attention."

Charged in the latest sting are three men who allegedly responded to a false advertisement placed on Backpage.

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Lance Joseph Novak, 35, of Scanlon; Ibrahim Baz Khallouf, 29, of Duluth; and Jason Robert Campbell, 22, of Superior face charges of prostitution in a public place.

Authorities said all three men responded to the advertisement and met with two undercover female officers posing as prostitutes. All three men were arrested after arranging payments, according to court documents.

Khallouf and Campbell were released on their own recognizance Friday after appearing in State District Court. Novak was being held on $6,000 bail.

Also charged is 21-year-old Reno Lee Breitkreutz. Authorities said the Duluth woman placed an advertisement through Backpage with the title "Sexy, Short, Red Head - 21."

An undercover officer contacted Breitkreutz through the listed phone number and met her at the motel. After she received an upfront payment of $100, the woman allegedly left the hotel room - explaining that she needed to pay her cab - and took off with the money, according to the criminal complaint.

Another undercover officer called Breitkreutz later in the evening and arranged to meet her at a gas station, according to the complaint. After agreeing to perform sexual services for money, she was arrested.

Breitkreutz was arraigned in court on Friday morning. Her bail was set at $3,000.

A prostitution charge is a gross misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. All four defendants are due back in court on Sept. 14.

Related Topics: CRIME
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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