SAWYER COUNTY -- Charges including using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime has been filed against 33-year-old Ben Bergee, of Mahtomedi, MN, following an undercover sex sting operation in Sawyer County.
A criminal complaint has been filed in Sawyer County Circuit Court against Ben Bergee, age 33, of Mahtomedi, MN, charging him with Class C Felony Attempt Sexual Assault of a Child Under 16 Years of Age; Class C Felony Use of a Computer to Facilitate a Child Sex Crime; and Class H Felony Causing a Child Under the Age of 13 to View or Listen to Sexual Activity following an undercover sex sting operation in Sawyer County.
On February 6, 2022, an Officer with the Lac Courte Oreilles Tribal Police Department was operating an online undercover profile that pictured the user to be a female of unspecified age. The profile received a message from a subject who was later confirmed to be Ben Bergee. The conversation between the undercover profile and Bergee continued until March 2, 2022.
The criminal complaint states that at the beginning of the conversation, Bergee confirmed that he was a 33-year-old man and the undercover officer identified the profile as belonging to a 15-year-old female.
Many details of conversations are included in the criminal complaint which states that Bergee discussed meeting the underage female in Hayward, WI, and renting a hotel room with cash. Bergee sent selfie photos of himself as well as photos of his genitals to the underage female and discussed having digital and oral sexual relations with her. Bergee described engaging in specific activities such as massage and bondage and described what items he would bring to the meeting.
Bergee discussed being willing to meet on February 20, 2022, and again on February 27, 2022, but canceled both meetings, stating that he was sick. Bergee then discussed meeting the underage female on March 2, 2022 with plans to meet at 7:30 at the LCO Country Store. Bergee provided a description of the vehicle that he would arrive in.
Multiple law enforcement officers were stationed in the vicinity of the arranged meeting place on March 2, 2022. Bergee continued to message with the undercover officer posing as the underage female and advised that he was lost. He was provided with directions, and at 7:45 he arrived at the planned meeting location in a vehicle that matched the description he had provided.
Bergee was taken into custody, and multiple items were located in his vehicle, which correlated with the items he had indicated that he would bring with him, including paint brushes, baby oil, feathers, and paracord rope.
Law enforcement interviewed Bergee, and he confirmed that he had met a 15-year-old female through a social media platform. He was shown printed versions of the conversations he had with the underage female, and confirmed that those were accurate.
The criminal complaint goes on to state that Bergee stated that he did not intend to have sexual intercourse with the underage female, but only to engage in massage and oral sexual activity with her.
Bergee also confirmed that he knew the female was only 15 and that he knew that it would be illegal to have sexual interactions with a female of that age.
Bergee told law enforcement that he brought cash to pay for the room, as he did not want the room purchase to show up on his bank account.
Online circuit court records show that Bergee appeared for a bail bond hearing on March 4, 2022, and the Hon. John Yackel ordered a $10,000 cash bond for him. Bergee’s bond was posted a few days later. Bergee appeared with his attorney on March 15, 2022, via video for an initial appearance hearing on his charges. Judge Yackel ordered that Bergee is to appear in person for his future court appearances. He is scheduled to appear again in June 2022.
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Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.