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Dave Olson, Published September 03 2013

Fargo man sentenced to 3 years on human trafficking charge

FARGO – A Fargo man who was the first in Cass County to be charged under a 2009 human trafficking law was sentenced Tuesday in Cass County District Court to three years in prison.

Chad Lee Lindley, 41, pleaded guilty to the human trafficking charge that alleged he posted an ad on Craigslist to recruit young women to work as prostitutes.

He also pleaded guilty to three other charges, including a controlled substance charge and charges of using a minor in a sexual performance and luring minors by computer.

Lindley was sentenced to a total of three years on those charges, which are to be served concurrently with his sentence on the human trafficking charge.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said his department is very happy with the sentence, and that it sent a strong message to other human traffickers working in the Fargo area.

The Lindley case represented a rare opportunity to go after the people working at the top of prostitution rings, he said, rather than arresting the women and their customers.

“These are the people we want stopped – because they’re the ones that are bringing this activity into the community,” Vettel said.

The case developed from Fargo vice officers monitoring online ads on websites such as Craigslist, Backpage and Facebook, identifying who was behind them and setting up stings to catch the traffickers.

“We had to identify this faceless person on the internet and find out who he was in real life,” Vettel said.

He said vice officers still have active cases they are following through similar ads online.

Prosecutor Reid Brady asked for a five-year prison sentence, stating Lindley was “driven by greed and lust to exploit others.”

Lindley’s attorney recommended a sentence of 18 months, citing his clean record and amenability to treatment.

Lindley spoke briefly in court Tuesday, stating he was sorry for what he did.

“I know my actions were wrong and I’m ready to take responsibility,” he said.

Judge John Irby gave Lindley eight years, with five years suspended.

Lindley will be on supervised probation after serving his time.

Before North Dakota passed its human trafficking statute in 2009, it was one of 11 states that didn’t specifically ban trafficking.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555. Reporter Emily Welker contributed to this story.