Wisconsin Man Indicted on Sex Trafficking Charges for Allegedly Transporting a Minor to Chicago to Engage in Prostitution
CHICAGO — A Wisconsin man has been indicted on federal sex trafficking charges for allegedly transporting an underage girl to Chicago from West Virginia to engage in prostitution.
A three-count indictment charges BLAKE STECKEL, 33, of Pleasant Prairie, Wisc., with sex trafficking of a minor, production of child pornography, and transporting an individual in interstate commerce for purposes of prostitution.
Steckel allegedly began communicating with the victim in July via Snapchat and text messages. Steckel purchased the girl’s plane ticket from West Virginia after promising to arrange work for her as a model or escort in the Chicago area, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit previously filed in the case. After the girl arrived in Chicago, Steckel took sexually explicit photographs of her and posted them in commercial sex advertisements on Backpage.com and ExplicitChicago.com, the complaint states. He then arranged multiple meetings for her to engage in prostitution in various hotels in the Chicago suburbs, including Schaumburg, Elk Grove, Itasca and Rosemont, according to the complaint. Steckel kept a portion of the money the girl earned performing commercial sex acts, the complaint states.
The indictment was returned Tuesday in federal court in Chicago. Arraignment has not yet been scheduled.
The indictment was announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John P. Selleck, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; James E. Lamkin, Chief of the Schaumburg Police Department; and Michael Nerheim, Lake County State’s Attorney. The charges are the result of a joint investigation conducted by the Chicago and Milwaukee offices of the FBI and the Schaumburg Police Department.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean J.B. Franzblau.
According to the charges, Steckel threatened to post the victim’s sexually explicit photographs on Facebook and Instagram if she refused to engage in prostitution for him. At one point the victim said she wanted to go home to West Virginia, but Steckel forced her to continue working for him, the complaint states.
Law enforcement rescued the girl in a Schaumburg hotel room on Aug. 21, 2017, after an undercover officer responded to an online posting for a “date” with the victim, the complaint states. The undercover officer engaged in a series of text messages with Steckel to set up the meeting, the complaint states.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The sex trafficking count is punishable by a statutory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison. Production of child pornography carries a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years. Transporting an individual for prostitution is punishable by up to ten years in prison. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
If you believe you are a victim of sexual exploitation, you are encouraged to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.