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University of Minnesota staffer gets arrested for trying to hire a sex worker

Police say he claimed to be conducting "research" at the Rochester hotel.

Police say he claimed to be conducting "research" at the Rochester hotel. Olmsted County Jail

Solen Feyissa, a 36-year-old professor at the University of Minnesota, responded to an online ad for a sex worker, say Rochester police. A $150 fee was agreed upon and they would meet at a Rochester hotel. 

There was just one problem. That wasn’t a real ad, and there wasn’t a real sex worker. The Rochester Police Department posted it two years ago to lure in people soliciting illegal sex. After reviewing Feyissa’s responses, they decided they had enough to take him in. They found him at the hotel and charged him with a gross misdemeanor.

An investigator said responses to these fake ads are common, but it’s rare to get pings on ads from so long ago. They’ve only received three or four responses in the last six months on this ad in particular.

In fact, the original website that hosted it was shut down by a government crackdown. The only reason the information survived is because smaller websites in other countries – which our government can’t shut down – have assimilated it.

To make matters weirder, police say that when he was arrested, Feyissa claimed that he was only conducting research. Authorities said he claimed to be “curious about how [sex workers’] lives are lived.”

But the cops don't believe his explanation jibed with his responses to the ad, though they're not releasing the text of those conversations. 

Feyissa didn’t respond to interview requests, but Inside Higher Ed said he sent an email on Sunday saying he “did not tell police that [he] was conducting research as part of [his] job,” despite reports to the contrary.

A university spokesperson sent a statement saying the school was “aware” of the allegations against “a current employee,” and that it would be “monitoring the situation closely.”