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Prostitution ring is a widening circle

A trio of arrests made Aug. 15 as the result of a prostitution sting have since led to two more arrests, officials said.

The case began July 27, when an 18-year-old woman from Georgia was arrested after making an appointment to meet an undercover police officer at a Rochester hotel room for sex.

That woman, Brhea Ashlyn Williams, was charged with a gross misdemeanor for prostitution, given a court date and released.

Less than three weeks later, the Rochester Street Crimes Unit conducted another investigation of prostitution-related activities through an ad that bore similarities to the ad from July 27.

After a series of phone calls, an undercover officer made a date to meet for sex, the report says. Though the females on the phone declined to discuss anything sexual, they asked multiple screening questions, again similar to the July 27 investigation.


Williams was arrested when she arrived at the hotel room, dropped off by Eeon Rashawn Williams, 38. Charles Antonio Webster, 39, reportedly Brhea Williams' pimp, was also in the vehicle. They were arrested at a nearby gas station.

New arrests

While in custody, Webster was in allegedly in repeated contact with Shannon Christine Funk, 27, and Zena R. Trass, 30, identified as Webster's associates.

According to the latest complaint, the three discussed prostitution operations and attempts to raise money for bail. Webster allegedly ordered Trass out to "make (him) money."

Since the Aug. 15 arrests, the SCU has continued to review ads in the escort section of a well-known prostitution website, and on Sept. 3, an undercover officer called one of the ads suspected to belong to Trass.

An agreement was made to meet at a hotel in Stewartville; terms of the transaction were discussed, the complaint says.

At the appointed time, a vehicle driven by Funk entered the area, with Trass as the passenger. The two appeared to be examining the area, looking inside other parked vehicles, according to the report.

Trass allegedly called the undercover officer and told him to meet her at an outside door of the hotel; Trass appeared nervous, telling him she was only there for a massage.


The two women were then arrested by members of the surveillance team.

Funk told investigators she's been involved in the prostitution operation for some time, and that in return for giving Trass rides to her appointments, Trass pays for the hotel they live in, as well as paying for gas and food. She reportedly said their only income is the money Trass makes through prostitution.

When officers called the number from the solicitation ad, the phone belonging to Trass rang, the complaint says.

The results

Trass, who listed a Chicago address, was charged Sept. 10 with gross misdemeanor prostitution. Her first appearance has been set for Oct. 14.

Funk, of Rochester, was charged with felony promotion of prostitution; she's made two court appearances and was released on her own recognizance.

Eeon Williams remains in custody in lieu of $10,000 bail; his next court appearance has been set for Oct. 1.

Brhea Williams also remains in custody, in lieu of $6,000 bond; she's due back in court Oct. 25.


Webster has been released after posting $70,000 conditional bond. He's expected in court today.

The increase in prostitution-related arrests is indicative not only of a hike in activity, but a hike in enforcement, officials say.

Though the majority of those arrested are men soliciting sex, the supply side is also addressed.

And while technology leads to an enhanced sense of secrecy, it also allows law enforcement to move within its confines. With those means, local police have identified underage people and others who are being exploited and abused, Capt. John Sherwin said last month.

"We're out there," he said of Rochester's street crimes unit. "We're monitoring the ads from Craigslist, the Back Pages, whatever, and sometimes, we're the ones writing the ads, so you never know."

The people who really suffer, he emphasized, "are the women who are either being abused or exploited in this. That's why the penalties for those who promote it are more severe. These women often are forced into this, through either abuse, fear, love — or all of the above."

More stories

Still, there are cases like Direasa Mae Rassman, 21, who was also arrested for prostitution on July 27.


That day, an SCU member responded to an ad for "Jade," who was recognized by officers as being involved with a sex trafficking case involving a juvenile, according to the criminal complaint against Rassman.

An undercover officer called the number, discussing terms of an appointment with "Jade" — later identified as Rassman. She was arrested when she arrived at the meeting place.

Rassman told investigators that she came alone to Rochester on a bus from St. Paul, denying that she worked for anyone now. She said she's a consenting adult, the report says, and should be able to have sex with other consenting adults, even if they pay her.

Though she'd worked for pimps in the past, according to the complaint, she said she's now trying to support herself and her 1-year-old child.

Rassman was charged with one count of prostitution, a gross misdemeanor. Her first court appearance has been set for Oct. 24.

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