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Press Release

Madison Man Sentenced to More Than 27 Years for Sex Trafficking of Minors

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Wisconsin

MADISON, WIS. – A Madison, Wisconsin man has been sentenced to 330 months in federal prison for sex trafficking of minors.  James Coney, 33, was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson.  The sentence was announced by United States Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, and Fitchburg Police Chief Alfonso Morales.  This prison sentence will be followed by 25 years of supervised release. 

Following a four-day trial in federal court, Coney was convicted on March 1, 2021 of four counts of sex trafficking a minor, one count of sex trafficking a minor by force, one count of attempted sex trafficking a minor, and four counts of transporting a minor from Wisconsin to Illinois for the purpose of prostitution.

The jury found that from May 2017 to March 2018, Coney trafficked five minors, attempted to traffic a sixth minor, and transported minors from Wisconsin to Illinois where they engaged in prostitution.  The evidence presented at trial showed that Coney began trafficking the minors immediately after being released from state prison in May 2017.  Coney used Backpage ads to arrange “dates” for the minor victims, collected the money from the customers, and instructed the minors on what to do.  All six of the minor victims testified at the trial.  Numerous witnesses testified that Coney was both physically and verbally abusive to the minor victim who was trafficked by Coney the longest.

The investigation of Coney began in December 2017 when one of the minor victims was reported missing by her mother to the Fitchburg Police Department.  The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children publicized the minor’s disappearance, and she ultimately was found in Chicago in January 2018 where she had been with Coney.  Coney was arrested in March 2018 in Lake Delton, Wisconsin and found with another one of the minor victims.

“The sentence imposed today reflects the cruelty of the defendant’s use of force and intimidation to exploit the young victims of his crimes,” said U.S. Attorney O’Shea.  “Our office will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to hold sex traffickers accountable and seek justice for their victims.” 

“Wisconsin DOJ works every day to keep children in Wisconsin safe,” said AG Kaul. “Thank you to the hardworking men and women in DOJ’s Division of Criminal Investigation who worked tirelessly to bring this child sex trafficker to justice for his horrific crimes.”

“This case began with a report of a missing member of our community and through countless hours of investigation, it led to the discovery of a situation that has unfortunately become a frequent occurrence in our country. Exploiting, abusing, and traumatizing vulnerable minors is appalling and these unacceptable acts cannot be tolerated by society,” said Chief Morales. “We remain committed to partnering with our community, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders, to prevent and investigate these cases in order to protect our youngest and most vulnerable community members.”

Judge Peterson said the minor victims were horribly exploited and highly damaged by Coney.  The Court found that Coney obstructed justice by contacting one of the minor victims over 100 times in violation of the Court’s order prohibiting his contact with the victims, and by attempting to persuade two minor victims not to testify against him.  Judge Peterson said that Coney has had an unrelenting string of violations since his arrest on these charges.  Judge Peterson noted that when Coney’s pretrial detention time is included, his total sentence amounts to 30 years in federal custody.

The charges against Coney are the result of an investigation by the Fitchburg Police Department and Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Chicago, Lake Delton, Janesville, and Madison Police Departments; the Dane County Sheriff’s Office; and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Pfluger and Taylor Kraus handled the prosecution. 

Updated March 15, 2022

Human Trafficking