Rhinelander man charged with child trafficking in Marathon County Court
By Katie Thoresen, WXPR
A Rhinelander man charged with trafficking of a child appeared in Marathon County Court Tuesday.
Paul Osterman, 34, was arrested Monday after a two-year investigation.
Court documents show a history of messages on the “Meet Me” app of a man using a variety of names. There 11 different incidents where the man tells the person he’s messaging he can pay a lot of money if they can get him a “much younger girl.”
For a more than a year police could not track the message to a person. The IP addresses kept tying back to internet connections at places around Rhinelander like the McDonald’s on Stevens Street, Mode’s Machines and More, and Northwoods Connect.
Osterman is the co-founder of Northwoods Connect, an internet service provider.
Police interviewed him in December 2018 about the Northwoods Connect IP address being used. According the criminal complaint, he told police any one of his 400 customers could have been using it and there was no way to track one specific customer to the IP address.
In February of this year, Osterman’s car was seen near one of the WIFI locations often used. A Rhinelander police officer asked Osterman what he was doing there for several hours. Osterman told the officer he was the owner of Northwoods Connect and was testing the internet speed of his competitors.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office got a warrant to put a GPS locator on Osterman’s car in April.
In May, GPS data from Osterman’s car matched up with a message sent on the “Meet Me” app for a man to meet with a 9-year-old girl at a motel in Tomahawk. Osterman never showed for the meet. The meet up turned out to be fake.
On June 8, multiple agencies, including the state Department of Criminal Investigations, set up an operation to meet up with Osterman.
The GPS locator put his car at the park in Marathon County where he was supposed to meet up with the under-cover agent who told Osterman she could get him a 9-year-old girl.
Police say Osterman walked around the park but never actually met up with the agent even though they continued to exchange messages.
Osterman was arrested Monday in Oneida County and immediately transferred to Marathon County Jail.
His cash bond is set at $50,000. If he posts bond, he cannot have contact with anyone under 18, has to turn his passport over to the Sheriff’s Department, isn’t allowed to leave Wisconsin, and can’t use internet capable devices.
Osterman is due back in court later this month.