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Human trafficking charge filed against Fargo man accused of hiring prostitutes on Craigslist

Chad Lee Lindley

The advertisement for escorts sounded innocuous enough at the beginning, but by the end, the tone seemed to change.

"I do have job openings that will provide the fun, provide the case, and provide the lifestyle that you'll love," the Craigslist ad stated, according to papers filed Tuesday in Cass County District Court.

"Looking for ladies that are dynamic and caring and know how to treat a man," the ad continued.

"Gorgeous young women between the ages of 18 to 40 years old ready to make up to $10,000 or more a week," it enticed.

Then, finally: "Must be experienced or know what this job is, professional, seductive, passionate and most of all sexy."

Police allege 40-year-old Chad Lee Lindley of Fargo posted the ad on Craigslist to recruit women to work as prostitutes.

Lindley was charged Tuesday with human trafficking, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison if convicted - quadruple the possible prison time as a Class C felony charge of promoting prostitution.

The state Legislature passed the human trafficking law in 2009. At the time, North Dakota was one of only 11 states that didn't specifically ban trafficking.

Assistant State's Attorney Reid Brady said this is believed to be the first time the law has been used in Cass County.

Under the law, human trafficking means labor trafficking or sex trafficking, and sex trafficking means "the promotion, recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, enticement, provision, obtaining or receipt of a person by any means" for purposes including prostitution.

A covertly recorded interview last Thursday between Lindley and a confidential police informant proved her work as an escort would involve prostitution, a violation of the human trafficking law, the police report alleges. During the interview, Lindley discussed the structure of his business and explained how he and she would both be paid for her work as an escort, the report states.

The next day, police executed a search warrant at Lindley's south Fargo apartment and found the anabolic steroid testosterone, leading to a felony narcotics possession charge that carries a possible penalty of an additional five years in prison.

Judge John Irby set bail at $10,000 cash or bond as recommended by Brady.

Fargo police are crafting an adult entertainment ordinance that would regulate businesses and their employees to prevent people from using a seemingly legitimate business, such as an exotic dancing service, as a front for illegal activity, Deputy Chief Pat Claus said.

The ordinance, based on a similar law in Sioux City, Iowa, would require business and employees to be licensed with the city, much like taxicab companies and their drivers, Claus said.

Police Chief Keith Ternes plans to propose the ordinance to city leaders for approval, but a timeline hasn't been set, Claus said.

Fargo police have linked prostitution to drug abuse, robberies, extortion, sex offenses and other crimes, and they want to stay ahead of the issue before it becomes a bigger problem here, Claus said.

"You've got to stay ahead of this, because prostitution can have a negative impact on your community," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528