ST. GEORGE — Following a multi-day sting operation that began Sunday and ended early Tuesday evening, agents arrested nearly a dozen suspects for sexual exploitation and trafficking offenses – including the arrest of a Cedar City man who had an open case filed in connection with a similar undercover exercise conducted last year.
The three-day sting operation was part of a proactive effort initiated by Dixie State University Police Chief Blair Barfuss, who told St. George News he thought it was time to run another federal operation as it had been a little more than a year since the last one.
Barfuss, who is cross-deputized to work with the FBI, then reached out to the agency’s law enforcement partners and organized the federal sting operation that included agents from FBI field offices in multiple states across the country, in addition to coordinating multiple meetings with the Washington County Attorney’s Office, as well as with federal prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. George.
Barfuss served as the lead in the investigation, which also included DSU Police Sgt. Ron Bridge. The joint effort led to the arrest of 11 individuals who were booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
During the coordinated effort, agents set up multiple locations where the suspects believed they were meeting up to “have sex with children,” Barfuss said. But instead, they were met by officers and arrested.
Those meeting spots were located in various places in St. George. (See Ed. note)
The first of four suspects arrested Sunday hailed from Michigan, 28-year-old Ali Muhamed Muhamed Al-Qadri, who was booked into jail on one misdemeanor count of enticing a minor by internet or text.
The investigation into the suspect began Saturday night when a task force officer at the FBI field office in Arizona was contacted by an undercover agent advising that a decoy posing as a 14-year-old girl was contacted by Quadri, who reportedly told the teen he was a long-haul truck driver and visiting St. George from Michigan, which is where the decoy stated she had just moved to, according to court documents filed with the court.
Authorities say the suspect messaged the decoy stating he would pay her for “sex” and provide alcohol, adding that he was “clean and disease-free.”
The suspect suggested they meet in his semitractor-trailer and arranged to meet the girl at a specific location in the afternoon of the following day, the report states. He also sent a photo of himself and the inside of his semi prior to the meeting.
Instead of meeting the 14-year-old, the suspect was arrested by undercover officers. During a search of the suspect’s truck, officers reportedly found cold beer and a new package of condoms. On the suspect’s cell phone, agents also found communications linked to the undercover operation.
When agents attempted to speak to the suspect, Quadri allegedly declined to answer any questions and quickly requested an attorney. The suspect was released from jail the following day after posting bond.
Next up was the arrest of a local man, 36-year-old Sean Eugene Chadburn who responded to two online profiles created by undercover agents posing as 14-year-old girls, according to charging documents filed with the court.
The suspect responded to the first decoy by describing various sexual acts he wanted to perform on the purported teen and then messaged the second undercover agent to arrange a meeting at a park in St. George. When Chadburn arrived at the designated meeting place, he was arrested by agents and booked into jail facing one misdemeanor count of enticing a minor by internet or text.
The suspect was released two days later after posting bond.
Christopher D. Angelo Evans, 41, of St. George was also arrested by agents after arriving at a pre-arranged location to meet what Evans believed was a 14-year-old girl. Agents set up surveillance, and when the suspect arrived riding a scooter, he was arrested without incident and booked into jail facing a misdemeanor charge for enticing a minor by internet or text.
Elver Arnoldo Ramos-Salazar, 29, also from St. George, was arrested after he allegedly posed as a 13-year-old chatting with a decoy who indicated they were the same age. The suspect messaged that he was visiting the St. George area and that he wanted to meet up with the decoy for sex.
When the suspect arrived at the prearranged location, however, he sped off and a foot pursuit ensued. The suspect was eventually cornered by agents, arrested and booked into jail on a misdemeanor charge for enticing a minor.
On Monday, four suspects were arrested during the operation, including 20-year-old Kevin Aguilar Ruano, of Santa Clara, who was taken into custody by agents after he allegedly made arrangements to meet up with an underaged female sex worker, court records state. The suspect arranged to meet the teen by messaging a popular internet site used for prostitution.
When the suspect arrived at a motel in St. George where he reportedly believed the minor to be staying, he was arrested by agents and booked into jail facing a misdemeanor charge for enticing a minor by internet or text.
Agents also arrested 22-year-old Brekkon William Boulter at a local motel where the suspect expected to meet a 17-year-old sex worker to engage in sex, according to court records. He was booked into jail facing two misdemeanor charges, including enticing a minor by internet or text and patronizing a prostitute. He was released the following day after posting bond.
Nathan Charles Bromley, 38, of St. George, was also arrested after allegedly using a social media site to message what he thought to be a 14-year-old girl to have sex. The report also states that Bromley requested photos of the decoy, and went on to describe photos he would like to take during an all-night meeting at a local motel.
The suspect drove off from the prearranged site and was arrested and booked into jail a short while later. Bromley faces second-degree felony charge of enticing a minor by internet or text. He was released from jail after posting bond.
A Cedar City man, 22-year-old Brittain Cody Ratliff, faces two felony charges following his arrest, including second-degree felony enticing a minor by internet or text, as well as third-degree felony dealing in harmful materials to a minor. During the investigation, the suspect allegedly reached out to a decoy posing as a 14-year-old girl and asked her to send nude photos of herself, as well as participate in a video chat with him.
The report also states the suspect sent the decoy photos of his genital’s during the message exchange, and then made several attempts to meet with the purported teen, but it wasn’t until he agreed to drive to St. George that he was arrested at a park by agents. During an interview, the suspect allegedly admitted to communicating with the teen but denied he ever intended to have sex with the girl.
Three suspects were arrested on the final day of the operation, and for one Cedar City man, 39-year-old Ali Hussain Alnasser, it was the second arrest following a similar sting operation that took place in September of last year. Alnasser was one of the dozen suspects arrested, and he was subsequently booked into jail facing one second-degree felony count of enticing a minor – electronic crime on Sept. 1, 2020.
Barfuss said this suspect was scheduled to appear in court next week on the 2020 case. As such, he said he found this particular defendant “very concerning,” considering he hadn’t even appeared on his first case yet.
Despite the suspect being charged with a misdemeanor offense in connection with the recent sting operation, Barfuss said the situation for this particular suspect is even more serious since his case is one of only two cases being picked up by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As such, he will be prosecuted in federal court.
A suspect from Sandy, Abong Louis Abong, was also arrested by agents on Tuesday and was booked into jail facing one third-degree felony count of aggravated exploit-prostitution.
The final suspect arrested, Kyle Lee Wendling, of Washington City, was booked into jail facing third-degree felony sex offense as well as two misdemeanor offenses – dealing in harmful materials to a minor and enticing a minor-electronic crime.
In addition to the Alnasser case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is filing a federal case against Qadri, the truck driver who traveled to St. George from Michigan, and once both cases are filed in federal court, the state charges will be dismissed.
Barfuss said agents also opened a secondary investigation from information obtained during the sting, including one that included a search warrant that was served upon a location to recover materials depicting the sexual abuse of children.
Ed. note: An earlier version of this story stated that the meeting spots were coordinated with St. George Police, which was the case in a previous sting operation but not the most recent one. Also, a new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.
This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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