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

Twenty-two-year-old Mariano Cocchiarella has been given a stayed sentence of three years in prison after previously pleading guilty to 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct with a 13-year-old.

Cocchiarella must serve an additional 81 days in jail. He'll be on probation for 15 years, must register as a predatory offender, and complete a sex offender program. A second charge of prostituting a 13-year-old was dismissed at sentencing.

Authorities learned of the crime when a foster parent discovered a conversation between the girl and Cocchiarella on her phone last June.  During a forensic interview at the Child Advocacy Center, the girl admitted to meeting Cocchiarella.

Court records show Cocchiarella gave the girl an ounce of marijuana in exchange for the sex act and $90.

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In a separate 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.

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.

As part of the plea agreement, that case was also dismissed.

Additionally, Cocchiarella has pleaded guilty to a criminal sexual conduct charge involving a teenager in Sherburne County. He'll be sentenced for that crime on Monday morning.

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