An underage prostitution sting in the town of Walnut Grove, Minn., famous for being the location of the TV show “Little House on the Prairie,” has ensnared the local police chief.
The 45-year-old chief, Michael Zeug, was charged Monday with attempt to hire a minor for sex, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Zeug, who constitutes the entire Walnut Grove police department, is said to have tried to hire a 17-year-old girl for sex.
According to the Star Tribune, the legal age of consent in Minnesota is 16, but hiring a minor for sex is a felony.
In all, three people were charged in the sting. Zeug was spared the embarrassment of being identified as the Walnut Grove police chief in the Redwood County District Court press release. Redwood County Attorney Steven S. Collins defended to omission to the Star Tribune: “I wasn’t trying to hide anything. […] There were three people charged. This is typical of the releases that we do.”
The Walnut Grove City Council scheduled an emergency meeting Monday evening to discuss Zeug’s fate as police chief. According to Collins, Zeug is married and has children.
“It’s amazingly unfortunate for everybody,” Collins told the newspaper.
Zeug faces up to five years in prison. He remains in jail on $50,000 bond.
Operation Guardian Angel, a sex sting described as a multi-state, multi-agency task force that works to prevent child sex trafficking, involved undercover police officers placing ads for sex with minors in Backpage and Craigslist.
Zeug reportedly told an undercover cop that hiring her wasn’t his “first time,” and he wanted her to stand at the front of the house where they were to meet and “flash him” as he drove by, to prove she wasn’t with law enforcement.
He also allegedly wanted her to send nude photos, according to WCCO.
“Little House on the Prairie” was set in Walnut Grove, but was actually filmed in Simi, Calif.