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Press Release

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Man Pleads guilty to Sex Trafficking of Children and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Woman Pleads Guilty to Interstate Travel in Aid of Prostitution

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of North Dakota

FARGO - U. S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers announced that on Jan. 26, 2016, Kurtis William Johnson, 26, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Tara Malinda Ridley, 26, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty before U. S. District Judge Ralph R Erickson. Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of Sex Trafficking of Children and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking. Ridley pleaded guilty to one count of Interstate Travel in Aid of Prostitution.

The case came to the attention of law enforcement after the North Dakota Highway Patrol pulled over a rental vehicle driven by Kurtis Johnson. Found with Johnson was a woman and a 17-year-old female who Johnson transported from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Bismarck, North Dakota, for the purpose of prostitution. A subsequent investigation revealed that Johnson was provided narcotics by Tyrice Akins in exchange for transporting women and one juvenile to various locations throughout the United States, including Florida, Louisiana, and North Dakota, throughout 2014 and 2015 for the purpose of prostitution.

The investigation further revealed that Tara Ridley facilitated Tyrice Akins’ business enterprise involving prostitution by renting vehicles for Akins that were used by Johnson to transport the women to North Dakota and elsewhere.

Tyrice Akins was indicted in May of 2015, and is currently awaiting trial on April 12, 2016.

This case is being investigated by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl is prosecuting the case.

This case was prosecuted with the assistance of the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force (NDHTTF), which includes regional response teams that consists of federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim service providers working together to identify and rescue human trafficking victims as well as investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, BCI, and the North Dakota Counsel on Abused Women Services (CAWS), the NDHTTF is dedicated to addressing the individualized needs of human trafficking victims and the apprehension, investigation, and prosecution of the perpetrators of human trafficking.

The NDHTTF includes representatives from Youthworks, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Lutheran Social Services, the ND Association of Counties, a Force to End hUman Sexual Exploitation (FUSE), a survivor of human trafficking, First Nations Women’s Alliance (FNWA), and the Department of Homeland Security - Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Updated January 27, 2016

Human Trafficking