Men arrested in child solicitation sting appear in court
A firefighter. An antiques dealer. An accountant. A volunteer.
Most of the men accused of soliciting child prostitution in a sting last week have no criminal record.
Seven of the nine people charged as a result of the sting operation in Garfield County, which created online posts advertising sex with children, appeared in court Monday for their first hearing.
Glenwood Springs antique dealer Scott Fetzer, 60, was advised on the charges in a closed courtroom on Friday. The Post Independent previously reported on his Thursday arrest.
One man accused of soliciting sex with a child is Jan Blewett, 35 of Crested Butte, who is a firefighter with the Colorado River Fire Protection District and works part time with the Crested Butte Fire Department.
“I think we were as shocked as anyone,” said Sean Caffrey, CEO of Crested Butte Fire.
Blewett has worked part-time with Crested Butte fire for one year, and was a volunteer for 13 years before that.
The allegations that Blewett solicited sex with a child through undercover operatives “do not represent (Colorado River Fire’s) values or mission or our members’ unwavering commitment to providing high quality emergency services to the communities we serve,” Colorado River Fire Chief Randy Callahan said in a statement.
Colorado River Fire will conduct an internal investigation, Callahan said. Blewett has worked for that district since 2012.
Blewett is on unpaid administrative leave from both fire districts.
In addition to the solicitation charge, Blewett may also be charged with the felony obscene communications.
From Thursday to Saturday morning, nine individuals allegedly communicated with the undercover agents to negotiate prices for sex with children. When they showed up at the meeting place, allegedly to engage in the criminal offense, they were arrested, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said Saturday.
“We’re glad we can make these arrests, but we’re sad this exists in the community in the first place,” Vallario said.
The details of the charges are still unclear, and court records were unavailable. The Ninth District Court has not released arrest warrant information.
Public defender Scott Troxel, who advised all seven men who appeared in court Monday while in custody, said his office had not even received the arrest documents.
Magistrate Susan Ryan said the documents were no longer sealed, as the suppression order in the cases, designed to protect the ongoing law enforcement activity, expired Saturday morning at 1 a.m.
Another man, Mingma Sherpa, 51, told Magistrate Ryan during advisements Monday that he works with Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Eagle, and helps low-income people find housing.
Ryan imposed mandatory protection orders on all the accused men that forbids them from having contact with children under the age of 18.
Sherpa was not the only defendant with children, but he requested allowance to see his two children. He said he has two children, 17 and 14 years old.
“It’s disturbing that the solicitation charges are for someone the same age as his son,” Ninth District deputy prosecutor Graham Jackson said of the allegations against Sherpa in court.
Ryan also imposed cash bonds for all the suspects, and denied personal recognizance bonds, which do not require an inmate to pay before being released.
Another man accused of the same charges was Rifle resident Brian Alvarez, who said he understood that the personal recognizance bond was out of the question.
“I‘ve been in the community for five years. I have family. They are here (in court) to support me,” Alvarez said. “I would like the cash bond to not cripple them.”
According to Alvarez’ public Facebook profile, he works as an accountant and is a Colorado Mountain College graduate.
One of the accused men, Guillermo Carreon-Salinas, 31, was on probation at the time of the sting, Jackson said. The others had limited criminal records.
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