Text messages, vehicle search result in conviction for sexual predator

A sting operation catches an internet predator and the court determines the admissibility of the evidence


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UNITED STATES V. SLIM, 2022 WL 1547963 (8th Cir. 2022)

During the 77th annual Sturgis Bike Rally, officers executed a sting operation to catch internet predators. As part of the undercover operation, an agent posed as a pimp and posted on classified websites such as Backpage.com and Craigslist.com advertising juveniles for prostitution. The agent posted three non-pornographic images of female adult officers that were digitally age-regressed. The post stated: “If you feel like being naughty hit me up. DDF and Discreet.” The ad identified the poster as 20 years old.

Carlocito Slim texted the number, asking whether the woman was “available” and if she offered massages. Hours later, the agent posing as a pimp texted Slim, saying the “gurl” was “fresh as hell,” “15 but gonna be 16” and would “do most nething.” The agent also texted Slim, “It 150 for hh an 200 for fh,” meaning $150 for a half hour and $200 for a full hour of sexual intercourse. Slim responded with: “OK would like to see her first bro.” Receiving no response by the next afternoon, Slim reinitiated the conversation by again texting the agent, inquiring whether the minor “gurl” was available that night and if she could “do one hour2$$.00.” Slim agreed to “rock a condom,” and to refrain from scaring or hurting the alleged minor girl. They agreed to meet at 9:00 p.m. that night.

Agents arrested Slim at the meeting site. Officers searched the car Slim drove and found condoms, $200 in cash and two cellphones. Slim waived his Miranda rights and spoke with the officers. Slim claimed he was confused about the alleged minor’s age and only wanted a massage for an aching back.

A grand jury later indicted Slim for attempted commercial sex trafficking of a minor and attempted enticement of a minor for sexual activity using a facility of interstate commerce. The trial court denied Slim’s motion to suppress the evidence taken from the car and statements he made after his arrest. Slim was convicted of both charges and appealed, claiming the motion to suppress should have been granted.

Slim first argued the arrest was unsupported by probable cause. One might say, “Get real!” The court more plainly said that the totality of circumstances, including Slim asking whether the alleged minor on the sexually suggestive ad was “available,” asking to see her even after the agent told Slim the alleged minor was 15 years old, agreeing to bring condoms and cash, to “rock a condom” and refrain from scaring or hurting the alleged minor, then driving to the agreed meeting place, all led to the reasonable conclusion he committed or was committing a crime.

Slim also contested searching the car he drove to the meeting place without a warrant. The search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant clause permits officers to search a car incident to arrest and without a warrant if the officers reasonably believe the car contains evidence of the crime for which the suspect was arrested. The officers reasonably believed the car would contain the cash and condoms Slim agreed to bring, as well as the phone he used to arrange the meeting. Therefore, it was reasonable for them to believe they would find this evidence in his car.

Slim also argued he was improperly charged because his intended minor victim was a non-existent victim. Many courts have rejected similar claims, as did the appellate court in this case: “We have held a person attempts to commit this crime when he subjectively intends to entice a fictitious minor female to engage in illegal sexual conduct and takes a substantial step towards commission of the offense by planning and ultimately driving to a meeting spot to meet the minor.”

NEXT: Multi-agency, sex-sting operation targets online predators

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