It's an unthinkable crime, people selling teenage girls for sex. It happens all too often all over America, including here in South Dakota.
Pimps use web sites like Backpage and Craigslist to conduct human trafficking. You may have a hard time believing something like that happens.
But tonight on Eye on KELOLAND, we go undercover with the State Division of Criminal Investigation as agents go after sexual predators. We want to warn our viewers, some of you might find the language offensive.
This man you see here has no idea what's about to happen to him.
His name is Vincent Vulpi, a truck driver from Oregon, whose rig broke down in Rapid City. But he's the one who's about to be busted.
Vulpi thinks he's on his way to meet up with a pimp he met online at Backpage.com who's going to offer him a 14-year-old prostitute for money.
But Vulpi has actually been emailing undercover officers who are posting fake ads in order to crack down on sexual predators in a sting operation set up with ICAC teams in Pennington County or Internet Crimes Against Children.
"These individuals contact us, we really kind of let them direct how the conversation goes and depending on what they are interested in or what types of things they are inquiring about, it kind of gives us a direction as to where we are going to go with that individual as far as part of the conversation, the big thing is we let them initiate the conversation and what direction we're going to go," DCI agent Toby Russell said.
The direction of this conversation is going like so many others.
"These individuals we deal with, some are from in-state, some out-of-state, but they are all looking for the opportunity that they're after and I think sometimes in rural America or smaller areas, people feel a lot safer and they may feel safer themselves as far as taking on these opportunities and not suspect law enforcement is doing these types of operations," Russell said.
The plan in this case is to meet Vulpi in the parking lot of his hotel.
Once the meeting has been arranged, this is the vehicle the undercover agents are going to use, inside there are three hidden cameras and once the deal goes down it's all caught on tape.
Vulpi slowly approaches the undercover car and gets inside.
Vincent: How you doing man?
Agent: Pretty good how you doing?
Vincent: Not too bad, I'm Vinny. Vinny?
Vulpi sits down and makes small talk with who he believes is the 14-year-old girl's pimp. But he's really another undercover agent.
Vincent: I've never done this in my life, seriously I've never f***d a 14-year-old in my life
"It's not uncommon when they are taken into custody for that to be one of their responses, that this is the first time they've ever done something like this, this is a pretty serious act and these individuals just don't wake up one morning and decide they want to go out and solicit a juvenile online for sexual activity, so most cases this is not the first time somebody has done this, a lot of times it may be a situation where things have happened in small steps and a lot of times these individuals have perpetrated on other juveniles as well," Russell said.
Off in a distance in another parking lot, we use a laptop and wireless devices to watch and listen to the conversation. The undercover pimp asks Vulpi what he's looking for.
Vincent: I'm not into all that kinky sh*t, Ok. I told you what I wanted to do and that's about it alright,
I like bl*w j*bs that's it. I'm not into a** f**cking or nothing like that, that's f**king gross man.
Online, Vulpi agreed to pay $100 for the teen.
Agent: She can do it, but the thing is she's 14, I don't want her roughed up,
Vincent: Oh no dude I'm not, I don't know how hard you want to get into it, I'm gentle okay,
Agent: I don't want you roughing her up, we don't want to get into that, we're just in area for the money,
Agent: As long as you can promise me you're not going to rough her up,
Vincent: Why would I rough her up, some people are into that sh*t, I'm not
Vulpi has only seen pictures of the girl that the undercover agents emailed him earlier in the night.
Vincent: I got $100 bill sitting up there waiting for her in my room. You don't have it with you now?
Vincent: I'm not going to give my money if she's not.
Agent: No I don't expect the money, but I'd like to see it.
Once Vulpi shows the money, the deal has gone down as far as the officers are concerned.
Vincent: I see cops coming up, she's not coming in the room.
Agent: That's cool go up to your room, I'll be waiting now, give me five minutes okay. Alright thanks buddy.
As Vulpi leaves the car, he begins walking back to his hotel to go inside, but what he doesn't see are the handful of armed DCI agents and law enforcement officers come storming out of the hotel and make the arrest in the parking lot without incident.
This undercover sting was in Rapid City. But who knows where the next one will be.
"I think it'll make them more hesitant to go on the internet and trolling for victims if they know law enforcement is out there looking for them, it'll be a constant cat and mouse game and they need to know there's a risk with what they're trying to do and trying to victimize kids and we are out there doing our part to make sure that doesn't happen," Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.
Vulpi pleaded guilty to solicitation of a minor and was just recently sentenced to five years in prison. He must register as a sex offender when he's released.
KELOLAND News agreed not to show any of this video until the suspects were convicted and sentenced for their crimes.