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A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned a superseding indictment charging a Wisconsin man with labor and sex trafficking, production of child pornography and money laundering.
The superseding nine-count indictment charges Austin Koeckeritz, 29, with forced labor, sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of a minor, interstate travel with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, producing child pornography and three counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleges that between August 2020 and August 2022, Koeckeritz used force to cause an adult to engage in forced labor and to engage in commercial sex acts. The indictment further alleges that he recruited, enticed, transported, and maintained a minor, knowing she would be caused to engage in commercial sex acts; that he traveled in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with the minor; and that he transported the minor from Minnesota to Wisconsin with the intent that the minor engage in sexual activity which constituted second degree sexual assault of a child under Wisconsin law. The indictment also alleges that Koeckeritz used the minor to produce child pornography. The offenses involving the minor are alleged to have occurred between October 2021 to January 2022. Finally, the indictment charges Koeckeritz with three counts of laundering the proceeds of the alleged forced labor and sex trafficking.
Koeckeritz was previously charged with one count of forced labor in an indictment returned by the grand jury on Jan. 12. He is being held in federal custody pending trial, which is scheduled for May 8 before U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson.
The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, and the sex trafficking by force charge and the production of child pornography charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of life. The charge of interstate travel with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor carries a maximum penalty of 30 years, and the sex trafficking of a minor and transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum of life. The maximum penalty for each money laundering charge is 20 years.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin and Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Hensle of the FBI Milwaukee Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI Milwaukee Field Office and the River Falls Police Department investigated the case. The Pierce County District Attorney’s Office provided assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Taylor Kraus for the Western District of Wisconsin and Trial Attorneys Slava Kuperstein and Julie Pfluger of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.
The FBI is asking anyone with information about Austin Koeckeritz to contact the FBI Milwaukee Field Office at (414) 276-4684. If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.