Wash. county corrections deputy arrested, fired for using jail messaging system to solicit sex

The now former officer is accused of first-degree computer trespass and patronizing a prostitute after contacting an inmate's significant other


By Martín Bilbao
The Olympian 
        
OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Thurston County corrections deputy was fired last week after being arrested on suspicion of abusing his position to solicit sex.

Mingyang Xu, 33, is accused of first-degree computer trespass and patronizing a prostitute. On Friday, Superior Court Judge John Skinder found probable cause for the alleged crimes and ordered Xu be released on his personal recognizance.

The Thurston County Sheriff's Office arrested Xu at 7:45 p.m. Thursday after luring him to a location on the 8200 block of Quinault Drive Northeast, according to a news release.

Detectives started investigating Xu after the Sheriff's Office received a complaint from a woman who had received encrypted emails from an unknown person asking for sex.

The emails reportedly contained information that would only be available to someone who had access to the county jail visitation messaging system. The woman previously used the system to communicate with her incarcerated partner.

At first, detectives could not determine who sent the messages because they were encrypted. To identify the sender, the woman allowed detectives to reply to the messages on her behalf and set up a meeting.

On Thursday, detectives arrested the man at the meeting location. They identified him as Xu, a corrections deputy the Sheriff's Office hired in December 2021, according to the release.

Xu was booked into Thurston County jail and fired that evening.

On Friday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Filak did not request the court set bail. However, Skinder did grant his request for a sexual assault protection order for the victim.

The protection order is based on Xu allegedly committing the crime of patronizing a prostitute. The alleged victim is not a prostitute, Skinder clarified, but the unfortunately named crime may still apply.

Skinder opted to release Xu because he has no prior criminal history, and he has never failed to appear in court.

A probable cause statement describes the investigation into Xu from the perspective of law enforcement.

Detectives began investigating the encrypted emails on April 12. The emails reportedly contained screenshots of personal communications from the jail's visitation messaging system.

That same day, detectives contacted the victim and gained access to her email with her permission, according to the statement.

After reviewing prior emails, a detective replied on behalf of the woman who received them. In doing so, the detective determined the sender must be someone with access to the messaging system.

The sender eventually agreed to meet the woman at a hotel in Lacey on Thursday and a detective booked a room, according to the statement.

That day, two deputies watched the hotel from a hidden vehicle in the parking lot while two others waited in the room.

After observing Xu knock on the door and send a final email, deputies detained him in the parking lot. At the time he carried a bag that held a firearm among other items, according to the release.

During an interview, the release says Xu admitted to soliciting sex and accessing the jail's visitation messaging system.

Xu had authorized access to the messaging system through his job. However, the statement says he did not have the authority to access a citizen's personal profile information for personal reasons or gain.

(c)2022 The Olympian (Olympia, Wash.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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