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Prostitution sting nets nine arrests in Cottage Grove

A Washington County law enforcement prostitution detail resulted in nine arrests at a Cottage Grove hotel last week, authorities said on Tuesday.

The nine individuals, all males between the ages of 26 and 72, were arrested in connection with a Washington County Drug Task Force and Violent Crime Enforcement team sting in Cottage Grove last Tuesday. Cottage Grove and Woodbury police personnel assisted in the operation that task force member Dan Schoen of the Cottage Grove Police Department said had been in the works for months before its execution.

Those arrested at the hotel -- which police are declining to name -- were booked into the Washington County Jail and released on suspicion of soliciting prostitution, a gross misdemeanor.

The arrests in Cottage Grove mark the second prostitution sting in Washington County this year. An operation in Woodbury netted six arrests earlier this summer.

According to the sheriff's office, the following men were arrested in Cottage Grove: William H. Taack, 72; Jason T. Leitz, 26; Phillip J. Smith, 50; James R. Johnson, 53; Michael R. Gobely, 26; Jon-Marc Ylvisaker, 31; Alberto I. Villegas-Licona, 50; and Timothy A. Rudolph, 49.

Washington County authorities placed an advertisement offering prostitution services in Cottage Grove, Schoen said, and then waited for potential john's to reply. The response was overwhelming: authorities were forced to shut down the operation early they received so much interest, he said.

Schoen said the men arrested "went through many steps" before they were taken into custody, including discussing the transaction and handing over money to the decoy prostitute, before police moved in.

The operation was part of ramped-up law enforcement efforts across the metro area to combat the sex trade, Schoen said. More stings are planned in Washington County, he said.