ST. CLOUD -- A Big Lake man charged with convincing a 13-year-old Stearns County girl to perform a sex act in exchange for marijuana has pleaded guilty.

Twenty-two-year-old Mariano Cocchiarella has pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 13-year-old. A second charge of prostituting a 13-year-old will be dismissed at sentencing.

Cocchiarella is also charged in another case with soliciting a minor for sex during an undercover sting by authorities. As part of the plea agreement, that case will also be dismissed.

Authorities learned of the first crime when a foster parent discovered a conversation between the girl and Cocchiarella on her phone last June. The girl later admitted to meeting Cocchiarella during a forensic interview at the Child Advocacy Center. Court records show Cocchiarella gave the girl an ounce of marijuana in exchange for the sex act and $90.

In the other case, the Central Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force was conducting an undercover operation in a chat room known for children being solicited for sex when Cocchiarella allegedly made contact.

Get our free mobile app

The undercover officer was posing as a 15-year-old girl when they say Cocchiarella asked her if she was looking for sex. The undercover officer asked Cocchiarella for his phone number to make sure he wasn't a cop. He said he doesn't give out his phone number and allegedly sent a picture of male genitalia to prove he wasn't.

Court records show a meeting was set up that night but Cocchiarella never showed.

Cocchiarella was later arrested in a traffic stop and booked into the Stearns County Jail.

Cocchiarella is also charged with criminal sexual conduct involving a child in Sherburne County. He has a May hearing on those charges.

10 Things to Say to a Minnesotan to Make Them Mad

 

12 Iconic Landmarks In The Twin Ports

 

Top 5 Worst Minnesota Vikings Quarterbacks