At least three men have been arrested on suspicion of attempted solicitation of a child as part of a sting operation.
According to arrest affidavits filed in 6th Judicial District Court, all three men responded to ads posted on Internet sites such as Craigslist.com and Backpage.com. Once lured in, the men were offered sex with minor children in exchange for money.
Those arrested are Rory Schmier, 47, of La Plata County; Jason Yazzie Chee, 39, of Farmington; and Harold Marshall, 45, of Farmington.
All three men were being held in the La Plata County Jail.
The operation was intended to identify people interested in sex trafficking of minors and the commercial sex trade, according to the affidavits. It was a three-day operation, conducted Monday through Wednesday, by the Department of Homeland Security in cooperation with the Durango Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Homeland Security declined to comment for this story. A spokesman for the Durango Police Department said Chief Jim Spratlen is handling news inquiries, but he is out of the office until next week. And the Sheriff’s Office referred questions to Homeland Security.
Undercover agents arranged a time and place to meet, and the men showed up believing they would have sex with a minor in exchange for money, according to the affidavits. After that, the men went to different lengths in carrying out the alleged crimes.
Schmier decided not to follow through and walked away before the exchange of money, according to his affidavit. But Chee paid $225 allegedly believing he was going to have sexual relations with a minor, and was arrested, according to an affidavit.
It was unclear from Marshall’s affidavit if any money was exchanged before he drove away from the encounter. He was pulled over soon after and arrested.
Two of the affidavits say law enforcement posted ads soliciting minors. But the ad used to lure Schmier reads: “Hii guys! (redacted) here!!! Looking for very open minded no b.s. gentlemen for some fun in Durango!!!! We know how to please!!!!! Text for details.”
The poster’s age was listed at 19.
On Tuesday, Schmier texted from his cellphone, “Hello. Are you available in Durango?”
The undercover agent responded by saying she would be in town Wednesday. She claimed to have two “working girls. 14 yr old and 11 yr old.”
Schmier responded: “That’s a little to (sic) young for me I think... How old are you?”
Undercover agent: “just the girls, i got out of it”
Schmier: “The pic in the ad is an older girl”
Undercover agent: “nah, that is the 14 yr old”
Schmier: “Oh. Ok. The ad says your (sic) 19?”
Undercover agent: “we cant post underage on there.”
Schmier: “oh ok. Don’t you get in trouble for the girls being to (sic) young?”
Undercover agent: “could. worth the risk. they are worth it.”
The conversation carries on, with the undercover agent setting a price and denying being a police officer.
The next day, the undercover agent contacted Schmier at 1:19 p.m. with a follow-up text message. The agent asked if Schmier was interested and discussed more about pricing and a meeting location. They finally settled on meeting at 8 p.m. at McDonald’s before going to the Best Western Durango Inn & Suites.
After a brief meeting in the parking lot at Best Western, Schmier spoke about the risk involved. He said he had the money, but before any money was exchanged, he walked away and was arrested in the parking lot.
During a two-hour interview with police, Schmier said he never had the intent to have sexual intercourse or perform any other sexual act with a 14-year-old girl.
“He was only curious that this type of thing could happen in Durango and wanted to see for himself if it was real, he was only playing a game with the subject on the other end of the line, and that he just wanted someone to talk to,” the affidavit says.
Schmier had about $200 on his person.
He was arrested on suspicion of attempted human trafficking of a minor and attempted solicitation for child prostitution.