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Imran Ali (Circle of Excellence honoree), left, and Karen Kugler
Imran Ali, left, and Karen Kugler

2020 Attorneys of the Year: Imran Ali and Karen Kugler

Two lawyers from different counties are responsible for most of the recent sex-trafficking convictions in Minnesota. Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Karen Kugler and Assistant Washington County Attorney Imran Ali have helped the state Legislature draft sex-trafficking law changes, worked with state and local partners to develop Minnesota Safe Harbor protocols, provided sex-trafficking training and education around the state, and trained thousands of police officers around the country.

Both were designated prosecutors working for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force. The two came together because the cases involved crossed jurisdictions.

“We decided it made the most sense to work together,” said Kugler.

After victims were discovered in St. Paul, Woodbury, Oakdale and Cottage Grove, Ali and Kugler led an investigation team and helped ensure the arrests of several suspects.

“The hard work across multiple jurisdictions was key,” said Ali. “There were about 250 search warrants in the case, so when you have that much evidence, it leads to a lengthy, thorough investigation.”

More than 50,000 pages of reports and several thousand exhibits were used to prosecute four people. The final case was upheld on appeal in April 2020. As a result of their work, several hundred women were saved from further exploitation, and almost $1 million in assets and cash was seized.

“We had the defendants locked up through digital evidence and phone records,” said Kugler. “The work of the investigators to put all that together was phenomenal. Then it was our job to weave all the evidence together and tell the story.”

While the problem of human trafficking has not gone away, Kugler added, “We’re glad that we made a dent in it.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2020 here.

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