ST. GEORGE — A Cedar City man was sentenced last week to 90 days in jail for enticing a minor for sex, the first of 12 defendants arrested during a multi-agency sting operation conducted in St. George in September.
Curtis Nolan Mills, 48, of Cedar City, was sentenced in 5th District Court during a hearing held via video feed on Oct. 8 on one count of enticing a minor for sex and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, the enticing a minor charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and three charges were dismissed, including contributing to the delinquency of a minor and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, each a misdemeanor, in exchange for his guilty plea.
Mills was arrested Sept. 1 as part of a sting operation that was set in motion when authorities were alerted to an ad found on Craigslist in which an individual posted a message implying that time could be spent with a child and asking those interested to respond via email.
Authorities received multiple calls from concerned individuals reporting the ad, which has since been removed, and additional resources were brought in to conduct a sting operation that began Sept. 1 and continued for three nights. The operation involved authorities setting up locations at which the suspect believed they were meeting up to “have sex with children,” Dixie State Police Chief Blair Barfuss told St. George News in September.
Those meeting spots were coordinated with the St. George Police Department and were located all over St. George. The operation netted a dozen arrests, one of which was Mills, in addition to multiple leads on a number of suspects who either failed to show up for the meeting with undercover agents or were suspected of committing other internet crimes against children.
During the sentencing hearing, Mills was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail with credit for time served. He was ordered to be released after 60 days, while the judge suspended the remaining 30 days, as long as the defendant successfully completes his probation requirements. The sentence of one year in jail on each of the charges was also suspended.
Mills was also ordered to pay a $1,500 fine and placed on 18 months private probation, which includes the standard restrictions associated with the charge that include a ban on entering any business or location where alcohol is served, maintaining full-time employment and submitting a DNA sample.
The requirement to register as a sex offender was not listed in the sentencing judgment filed by the court.
On Thursday, St. George News reached out to Barfuss who explained the work that goes into organizing an operation such as what took place in September. He and DSU Police Sgt. Ron Bridge spent nearly 40 hours organizing the operation before the first meeting between the undercover officers and the suspects even took place.
That is not counting the 25 hours or more that each of the 20 local, state and federal agents worked during the sting itself, he said, adding it takes a great deal of manpower and resources to deploy that type of law enforcement application.
In reference to Mills’ sentence, Barfuss said that even without prison time, each defendant is typically placed on probation and is watched fairly closely, or placed on parole if they are sentenced to state prison.
In either case, he said, those who are convicted are generally required to undergo a psychosexual evaluation, which is an intensive look into the defendant’s history. And in most cases, probation is accompanied by a sex offender registry requirement.
The in-custody restrictions that were implemented back in March also had an impact on the drop in the number of sentences that include jail or prison time, he added.
He also said that any future arrest for a similar crime will likely be picked up by federal prosecutors. If that happens, then the defendant faces mandatory minimums and longer sentences to be served in federal prison.
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