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Park Rapids man sentenced for bringing prostitute to Bemidji

A Park Rapids man will spend years behind bars for taking a woman to Bemidji to work as a prostitute.

David Cruz Velazquez, 44, was sentenced to five years and two months in prison for promoting prostitution. He must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence before he is eligible for supervised release.

Velazquez was charged in June with promoting prostitution. He was also charged months earlier with soliciting a child or someone believed to be a child through electronic communication to engage in sexual conduct.

According to court documents:

Velazquez initially came to the attention of law enforcement in September 2016 after he responded to a decoy ad posted on Backpage — a website used to advertise "adult services" — by the Bemidji Police Department. Law enforcement posed as a 15-year-old prostitute in the ad, and Velazquez responded.

Text messages published in a search warrant show Velazquez texting the undercover officers asking about prices. He also asked whether the girl would perform a certain sexual act, and about her height and weight.

Acting as the 15-year-old, police arranged to meet with Velazquez at a Bemidji hotel. When he arrived at the location he was detained and interviewed by police. At the time of the interview, officers confiscated his phone and gave him a receipt for it.

A day after the interview, Bemidji police arrested a woman who had been working as a prostitute out of a local hotel. The woman told officers she had met a man who called himself "Cruz," who took her from Duluth to Park Rapids, then to Bemidji, to work as a prostitute.

When officers searched the woman's hotel room, they found the receipt they had given Velazquez when they confiscated his cell phone.

In addition to the five-year-two-month sentence for promoting prostitution, Velazquez was sentenced to one year and three months in prison on the child solicitation charges. Though the lesser sentence would usually be stayed, Velazquez chose to execute it. It will be served at the same time as the longer sentence.

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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