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Sex sting leads to fed charges

by Ralph Bartholdt Staff Writer
| February 22, 2019 12:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Two men from Spokane who drove to Idaho to have sex with girls under 16 will face charges in federal court.

Charges were filed Wednesday against Paul V. Gauron, who was arrested in connection with a 2017 police sting operation, and Carl E. Ness, who was arrested two weeks ago in Post Falls as part of another multi-agency sting.

Gauron, 54, is charged with attempted coercion and enticement of a person he believed to be a minor to engage in prostitution and sexual activity, which carries a fixed 10 years in prison, a maximum $250,000 fine and up to a life term of supervised release.

Police pretended to be a teenager on social media. Gauron allegedly drove from Spokane to Idaho to meet with the teenager, and was arrested.

Authorities seized $500 cash and an iPhone from Gauron.

Ness was arrested two weeks ago along with four others when police launched another sting — called Operation Lonely Hearts — from the Post Falls Police Department.

Ness, 54, was among six men who answered ads placed by authorities. He is charged in U.S. District Court with traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, which carries up to 30 years in prison and a fine of no more than $250,000 and five years of supervised release.

Ness was arrested along with Richard Peterson, 24, of Rathdrum, a registered sex offender; Thomas R. Cartwright, 54 of Post Falls; and two Spokane men who drove to Idaho through a snowstorm to have sex with a person they thought was a 14-year-old girl but turned out to be a police officer.

The other men are charged in Kootenai County District Court.

The sting operations are run jointly through the Department of Homeland Security and the attorney general’s International Crimes Against Children task force. Three- to four-day trials for both men will be in U.S. District Court.