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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 27, 2022

South Carolina man sentenced to 30 years in prison for sex trafficking and drug crimes in Montana

BILLINGS  — A Charleston, South Carolina, man was sentenced today to 30 years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for his conviction in a large sex trafficking and drug investigation that involved more than a dozen women and girls who were forced by threats and violence into prostitution in Montana and taken to other states, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Louis Gregory Venning, also known as “December,” 42, pleaded guilty in November 2021 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.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. Restitution, which is mandatory, will be determined at a later hearing.

“Venning targeted young women and girls, including a minor, to force them into his interstate prostitution network,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said. “He gave those victims drugs and some income, while at the same time he coerced, cajoled and forced them into a life of commercial sex, traveling from town to town and state to state to set up the business for a few days at a time, all to enrich himself.  Those victims were emotionally and physically abused, not only by Venning, but also by his customers.  Today’s sentence is an example of the hard work my office is doing to address this problem in Montana and to protect and seek justice for these victims."

“Venning preyed on vulnerable women and girls, taking away their voice and their dignity through manipulation and violence,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice, of the Salt Lake City FBI. “The FBI shares in an unwavering commitment to aggressively investigate and help eliminate this form of modern-day slavery and seek assistance and justice for victims.” 

In courts documents and in statements in court, the government alleged that from 2012 to 2020, Venning sex trafficked women and girls, identified as Jane Does, and distributed cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Venning coerced, threatened and controlled more than a dozen victims to engage in commercial sex for his profit. Venning used the internet and social media to meet and recruit victims, some of whom were homeless and using drugs, into working for him. He further controlled his victims by providing them drugs and by threatening and physically abusing them. Venning forced the victims to engage in commercial sex for him in Billings and other Montana communities. Venning also took some of victims from Montana to work in other states, including Wyoming, Missouri and Georgia.

The government further alleged that in 2019, Venning met Jane Doe 9 in a Missoula motel 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 minor 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, Jane Does 3 and 4 told law enforcement that while working for Venning in commercial sex, he gave them cocaine. Social media posts collected during the investigation show Venning bragging about and sending pictures of cocaine to various individuals.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno B. Baucus and Bryan T. Dake prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI, Montana Division of Criminal Investigation and Billings Police Department.

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Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Clair Johnson Howard Public Affairs Officer 406-247-4623
Press Release Number: 
22-163
Updated June 27, 2022