Principal charged with soliciting officer posing as minor

Mohamed Selim was principal of William Byrne Elementary in District 191 before becoming Principal of Eagle Ridge Middle School. (District 191 photo)

Selim is principal of Eagle Ridge Middle School  

The principal of Eagle Ridge Middle School in Savage faces a felony charge after allegedly soliciting an undercover police officer posing as a 15-year-old female prostitute.

Mohamed Ali Selim, 38, was charged May 19 with hiring, or offering or agreeing to hire, for prostitution a person he believed to be at least 13 but under 16. The charge carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison and or fines of $6,000 to $20,000.

Selim was arrested May 17 in St. Louis Park in an undercover police operation targeting sexual exploitation of minors, the city said in a statement. Selim was one of four men arrested in the multidepartment operation, part of a statewide crackdown on human trafficking.

Three of the men were released, but Selim was held in the Hennepin County Jail “due to his position of authority working with children,” the statement said.

Eagle Ridge Associate Principal Bill Helm is serving as acting principal, said a statement from Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191. There’s no indication district students were involved in the incident, it said.

“This is a hard day for the school and for the district,” Superintendent Theresa Battle said in the statement. “It will be difficult for all of us to process this. At the same time, we will continue our commitment to providing a high quality education and experience for students as we finish the school year.”

Counselors and support were available for students and staff, the statement said.

The criminal complaint gives the following account:

Selim responded on Tuesday, May 17, at about 1 p.m. to one of the ads police placed on multiple websites offering prostitution services. He engaged in a text conversation with the undercover officer, saying he “would love to come see her” and asking if 4 p.m. that day would work.

She provided her rates — $250 for an hour and $175 for a half hour — and Selim responded that he could “head over now for a hhr.” Selim tried to call her, and she called back. He asked if the session was “full service.”

The officer said she allowed full service but she had lied “a little” in her ad about her age.

“I’m 15, but it’s not a problem for me if you’re fine with it,” she told Selim. He laughed and said “OK, that’s fine,” and then asked “So, you’re 15?”

He said that’s too young and it was not going to work, but then asked for her location.

“When she advised that she was in St. Louis Park, defendant asked if she was affiliated with police,” the complaint said. “Defendant then said that her age made him really nervous, but he would still come see her so they could ‘spend some time together.’ ”

He messaged the officer to ask for the address, which she provided. Upon arrival he messaged her and asked if she offered “incall.” She said she did, but that she was walking to meet him and asked him to pick her up at a nearby location.

When Selim arrived, he was arrested.

“Defendant was distraught and made comments that his life/career was over,” the complaint said.

Officers searched him and found $208 in cash. They seized his computer and cell phone and confirmed the calls and texts sent to his phone.

Selim, of Lakeville, joined District 191 in the 2019-20 school year, serving as principal of William Byrne Elementary. He won that year’s Leadership in Action Award, one of the district’s annual One91 Community of Excellence Awards.

He was nominated by five William Byrne teachers who praised his leadership.

Before coming to District 191, the 2002 graduate of Richfield High School held teaching and administrative positions for metro-area charter schools.

“As parents, we join the collective shock of our community in the news of this arrest,” said a May 19 statement from state Sen. Lindsey Port and state Reps. Jessica Hanson and Kaela Berg, all Burnsville DFLers. “The safety of our children in schools is of the utmost concern, and this betrayal of community trust is heartbreaking. We want to thank the hard work of members of law enforcement for their swift action and for helping to keep our community, schools, and children safe.”

“It is unacceptable that Minnesota has the third highest rate of child sexual exploitation, and this arrest should serve as a stark reminder that we must do more to address and prevent these crimes,” the statement said.

The lawmakers urged anyone who believes they were victims “of a crime associated with Selim occurring within the city of Savage” or those responsible for them to contact Savage police at 952-882-2600.

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