Charleston, S.C., man admits sex trafficking, cocaine crimes stemming from scheme to coerce women and girls into prostitution
BILLINGS – A Charleston, South Carolina, man accused in a large sex trafficking scheme of coercing women and girls into prostitution for him in Montana and other states admitted to charges today, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
Louis Gregory Venning, also known as “December,” 41, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking of a minor, transportation of a person with intent to engage in prostitution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Venning faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, five years to life of supervised release and a $5,000 special assessment on the most serious crime of sex trafficking.
A plea agreement reached in the case calls for nine other counts of sex trafficking, transportation for prostitution and drug trafficking crimes charged in a second superseding indictment to be dismissed at sentencing if the court accepts the agreement. The government agrees not to seek additional charges. Restitution is mandatory, and Venning agrees to be responsible for complete restitution relating to all counts in the second superseding indictment.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Judge DeSoto said she would recommend that Venning’s plea be accepted by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, who will sentence Venning. Sentencing was set for March 15, 2022. Judge Christensen will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Venning was detained pending further proceedings.
In courts documents and in statements in court, the government alleged that at various times from 2012 to 2020, Venning trafficked women and girls for commercial sex and also distributed illegal narcotics, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Venning employed coercion and force, violence and threats of violence and the widespread use of drugs to advance his criminal goals. Venning recruited and coerced more than a dozen women and girls, identified as Jane Does, and forced them to engage in commercial sex for him in Billings and other Montana communities. Venning took some of the Jane Does from Montana to other states, including Wyoming, Missouri and Georgia, for commercial sex work.
The government further alleged that in 2019, Venning met Jane Doe 9 in a motel in Missoula after responding to one of Jane Doe 9’s own ads for commercial sex. Venning discussed how she would work for him and ultimately she did. Venning became abusive toward Jane Doe 9, including physically assaulting her. In August 2018 in Billings, Venning coerced a girl, identified as Jane Doe 8, who was under the age of 18, to engage in commercial sex. In 2012, Venning transported another victim, identified as Jane Doe 5, from Montana to Georgia and Missouri to engage in prostitution.
In addition, Venning possessed with intent to distribute cocaine. Jane Does 3 and 4 told law enforcement that while working for Venning in commercial sex, they received cocaine from him. Social media posts collected during the investigation show Venning bragging about and sending cocaine to various individuals.
Co-defendant Destiny Lachelle Nilsen, also known as “Diamond,” pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno B. Baucus and Bryan T. Dake are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.