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Missouri man accused of prostituting woman from China at Bismarck hotel

BISMARCK — A Missouri man is accused of prostituting his 41-year-old wife from China at a Bismarck hotel.

Marvin Rex Lord, 67, of Festus, Mo., was arrested Thursday and charged Friday in Burleigh County District Court with facilitation of prostitution, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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The woman, also listed as being from Festus, was arrested and charged with Class B misdemeanor prostitution in Bismarck Municipal Court. She pleaded not guilty Friday and requested a court trial, which was set for March 6.

Forum News Service isn’t naming the woman, who has a different last name, because police were investigating whether she might be a victim of human trafficking. Sgt. Mark Buschena said the woman came to the United States on a visa from China, but he didn’t know her legal status.

Police set up an undercover operation after being called to the hotel Thursday afternoon by a manager, who reported suspicious activity because Lord was meeting men in the lobby, walking them up to his third-floor room and then waiting in the lobby until they left, an affidavit states.

An investigator contacted Lord by phone and was instructed to go to his room, where the woman offered the investigator sex for money, the affidavit states. Police contacted Lord as he was trying to walk out of the hotel.

Lord told police that the woman was his wife, and when asked if he knew why police were there, he said prostitution, the affidavit states.

Lord made his first court appearance Friday afternoon, saying he and his wife had been in Bismarck for a little more than a week and that he had no prior criminal record. He requested a court-appointed attorney.

Assistant State’s Attorney Marjorie Kohls recommended bail at $10,000 cash only, noting Lord has no ties to the community and could pick up and leave. District Judge Bruce Romanick set bail at $20,000 cash or $2,000 bond.

“I don’t have it,” Lord said.

Lord and the woman remained in the Burleigh County Detention Center on Friday afternoon.

Facilitation of prostitution is normally a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. But it can be charged as a Class C felony carrying up to five years in prison if prosecutors believe the suspect forced the person into prostitution, if the prostitute is the suspect’s spouse, child or ward, or if the prostitute is less than 16 years old.

Prostitution reports are rare in Bismarck. Police received only one report in 2010, two reports each in 2008, 2009 and 2011, and three reports each in 2012 and 2013, Buschena said. One of the reports last year led to charges, and the two other cases were closed because one had a lack of evidence and the other report was unfounded, he said.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.