A North Branch man was among a group of people charged as a result of two-day sex trafficking sting conducted by the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office last month.
Chad James Eckel, 31, made his first court appearance on the charge June 30. His bail was set at $5,000 with conditions or $50,000 with no conditions. According to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office website, Eckel was released July 1 after posting bail. Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter said one of the conditions of his release was that he have no contact with anyone under 18 years of age. His next court appearance is July 24.
According to a press release from the Anoka County Attorney’s Office, a total of 19 people were arrested in the sting, and the office has levied charges against 11 of them. Six more cases are under review by the office, and charges are likely.
The defendants were arrested after soliciting sex acts from undercover officers who were posing as children. Each defendant is charged with one felony count of electronic solicitation of a child (engage in sexual communication).
“Earlier this week, law enforcement from multiple agencies executed a well-organized initiative targeting those with desires to prey upon the youth of our community,” said Paul Young, chief of the Anoka County Attorney’s Office Criminal Division. “Simply stated, this will not be tolerated. Kudos to all of the law enforcement experience and labor channeled for this investigation. While this investigation and these crimes did not involve any ‘real’ children, we know these are not ‘victimless’ crimes. This type of crime – predatory conduct in search of exploiting children – has no geographic boundary and impacts our whole community.”
Criminal sexual conduct charge
Eckel was charged in Chisago and Hennepin counties with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony, in October 2015 related to an incident where he allegedly touched a girl under the age of 13 — an act that included sexual penetration.
However, prosecution has not moved forward on those charges.
“In December 2016, counsel for the defendant made a motion in the Chisago County matter to examine the defendant’s competency to stand trial,” Reiter said. “The defendant was found incompetent to stand trial in both the Hennepin County and Chisago County matters earlier this year. By rule, the prosecution of these matters is suspended. Prosecution may be reinitiated with a new evaluation of his competency.”
The Anoka County charge could lead to a reassessment of Eckel’s competency to stand trial.
“With the new charges in Anoka County, there will likely be additional reviews of the Mr. Eckel’s mental and cognitive status,” Reiter said.