UPDATED: Two pipeline workers arrested in Itasca County sex trafficking sting

Two of the arrests from last week’s sex trafficking sting in Itasca County were Line 3 workers.

Enbridge confirmed that two of the seven arrested, Michael West from Rolla, Missouri, and Matthew Hall from Mt. Pleasant, Texas, were employed by a contractor working on the Line 3 pipeline.

The contractor, based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has since fired both men.

Opponents of the Line 3 pipeline have expressed concern that an influx of workers would increase violence against women and girls.

Over the course of the regulatory process for Line 3, state officials in the Environmental Impact Statement wrote:

“The addition of a temporary, cash-rich workforce increases the likelihood that sex trafficking or sexual abuse will occur.”

The sting last week in Itasca County used law enforcement officers posing as minors on sex advertisement websites, with arrests taking place as the men arrived at the pre-arranged meeting places.

An Enbridge spokeswoman released the following statement:

“Enbridge has zero tolerance for all illegal and exploitive behavior. Two individuals who formerly worked for our contractor were arrested and charged in a human trafficking sting in Itasca County. Such behaviors from anyone associated with this project will not be tolerated and are immediate grounds for dismissal. Both individuals were immediately terminated upon learning of their arrests.”

“Pursuant to the project’s route permit, Enbridge developed and implemented a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan in cooperation with several Tribal and State entities. In addition to requiring that all workers receive training prior to beginning work on the project, the plan also included development of an awareness campaign called Your Call Minnesota (yourcallmn.org).”

“We have been working together with contractors and our construction teams to make certain our standards and expectations are clear. Workers are required to act consistently with our policies and the law. Enbridge will continue to work with the State, Tribes, and our contractors on actions to combat trafficking in our society. We support all efforts by law enforcement to arrest perpetrators as well as the prosecution of anyone participating in trafficking to the maximum extent of the law.”

The criminal complaint for Hall, age 31, states he is charged with a felony soliciting sex with a minor charge. During an explicit online conversation, the undercover agent revealed she was almost 16 and Hall was arrested as he arrived at the undercover residential location.

The criminal complaint for West, age 53, states he is charged with two misdemeanor charges, one for soliciting a prostitute over the age of 18 and another for carrying a pistol without a permit. During a Mirandized statement, West said that he arranged to buy sex because he was a “thousand miles from home.” He said he worked for Precision Pipeline and heard about the website where he found the ad from rumors at work.

West, in the complaint, said that he was a “horrible example” and that he would “teach all these young men what not to do.”

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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