Thirteen people have been arrested in Spokane County in a major sting operation targeting would-be child rapists.
Nine of the suspects appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Monday afternoon and four had hearings last week. Most responded to a Craigslist ad posted by detectives from the Missing and Exploited Children Task Force, a division of the Washington State Patrol. Some posted their own ads seeking sex with children.
Sgt. Carlos Rodriguez posted the ad posing as a mother of three. He claimed to have 6- and 11-year-old daughters and a 12-year-old son and said they would participate in sex acts in exchange for gifts.
“We base our personas on people we have actually come into contact with,” Rodriguez said. “There’s really only one way to say it: They’re raping children.”
More than 1,000 people responded to the ad in about 20 days, he said. When a respondent seemed intent on committing a crime, detectives continued conversations through emails, texts and phone calls. Female detectives played the voices of a mother and daughter and arranged meetings with the suspects.
“I’ve got more people trying to meet with me right now,” Rodriguez said. “If I sit here and respond to every one, I could average two arrests a day. The concerning thing is that everywhere that we’ve gone, that’s been consistent. Two a day.”
The task force has conducted similar operations in Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties in the past year. The Spokane County investigation brings the total number of sting arrests to about 40, Rodriguez said.
Public defenders, meanwhile, questioned whether the suspects would have committed crimes without coaxing from the detectives.
“The issue is who initiated it,” said Anna Timberlake, who represented three of the suspects in a hearing Monday. “Would these things be initiated were it not for undercover cops?”
Previously, the task force devoted most of its resources to custodial issues, Rodriguez said. The sting operations are a more “proactive” way to bring justice to sex offenders.
Still, he said, it’s impossible to arrest everyone who takes the bait. The two-member task force covers the whole state.
“When you think of task forces, you think of 10 or 15 people going out and getting bad guys,” he said. “Unfortunately, right now, it’s just me and my partner.”
With such little manpower of its own, the task force teamed with more than 30 other investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Of the 13 suspects arrested in Spokane County, only one, Robert Dahms, of Post Falls, is a registered sex offender.
“That’s 12 other people who were trying to rape kids and we didn’t know it,” Rodriguez said.
The first two suspects were arrested July 6, and the last five were arrested Sunday. Their names, and the charges they face, are as follows:
- Tim McManis, 51, of Spokane. Two counts of first-degree attempted child rape.
- Sandra McManis, 47, of Spokane. Second-degree attempted child rape.
- Robert Dahms, 50, of Post Falls. First-degree attempted child rape.
- Jason Borseth, 36, of Metaline Falls, Washington. Commercial sex abuse of a minor; first-degree attempted child rape; possession of methamphetamine.
- Sean Stevenson, 29, of Spokane. Commercial sex abuse of a minor; two counts of first-degree attempted child rape; second-degree attempted child rape.
- Christopher Luman, 54, of Yakima. Two counts of first-degree attempted child rape.
- Mechel Fredrick, 26, of Post Falls. First-degree attempted child rape.
- Steven Hunt, 58, of Spokane. First-degree attempted child rape.
- Joseph Siria, 32, of Spokane. First-degree attempted child rape.
- Reggie Oliver, 36, of Spokane. Second-degree attempted child rape.
- Eduardo Populus, 56, of Post Falls. Two counts of first-degree attempted child rape.
- Glenn Hampton, 47, of Spokane. Second-degree attempted child rape.
- Thomas Bramblee, 29, of Spirit Lake, Idaho. Second-degree attempted child rape.
In court hearings Monday, Judge Gregory Sypolt ordered the suspects held on bonds ranging from $40,000 to $100,000. Prosecutors noted previous felony convictions and said some of the suspects work or live with children.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t know if the sting will result in more arrests.
“It’s just resources,” he said. “If we had more people doing what we’re doing, it would be different.”
The task force is a unique government entity in that it can receive private donations. Rodriguez urges people to give directly to the task force or to Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit that works against child abuse internationally.
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