The Winona County Attorney's Office is seeing more welfare fraud and sex-related cases prosecuted these days thanks to a stepped up effort by local law enforcement.
County Attorney Karin Sonneman told the Winona County Board a new program featuring a five-county welfare fraud investigator is turning out to be successful. The program is in collaboration with the county community services department which handles welfare cases.
Sonneman also said stepped up investigations of financial exploitation of the elderly and vulnerable adults has resulted in four cases currently. Winona Police said one case involves three members of the same family allegedly missusing an elderly parent's funds.
In addition, Sonneman said her office and police have completed training in human sex trafficking investigations which has resulted in two people being arrested for attempting to arrange online sexual encounters at a local hotel with a 15-year-old female who turned out to be police investigators.
Sonneman told the board people don't think this is happening in this community, but it is.
The increased enforcement is in response to a new 'Safe Harbor' law that goes into affect in Minnesota August 1st. The law places the emphasis on prosecuting the offenders and not the teenagers who may be forced into sex trafficking.