River Falls Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Wisconsin
MADISON, WIS. – A River Falls, Wisconsin man pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and one count of sex trafficking of a minor.
According to court documents, Austin Koeckeritz, 29, of River Falls, used force, threats of force, fraud and coercion to compel one adult victim into engaging in commercial sex acts in the River Falls area between August 2020 and August 2022. The defendant also caused a minor victim to engage in commercial sex acts in between October 2021 and January 2022.
“Sex trafficking continues to be prevalent because traffickers see the profits they can make from exploiting the vulnerable victims they target,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This type of abuse — particularly of minors — will not be tolerated. The Justice Department remains committed to prosecuting human trafficking offenses and standing up for the victims exploited by these abusers.”
“My office will continue to work with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to hold human traffickers accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin. “Sex trafficking and forced prostitution are heinous crimes and our priority is to restore freedom and dignity to the victims.”
“Sex trafficking has lasting and devastating impacts on victims and their families throughout the state of Wisconsin,” stated Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Hensle of the FBI Milwaukee Field Office. “The investigation into Koeckeritz is just one example which highlights the dedication of the men and women of the FBI who work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners across the state to hold anyone accountable who chooses to exploit and harm others for profit.”
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled on a later date. Koeckeritz faces a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Milwaukee Field Office and the River Falls Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the Pierce County District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Taylor Kraus of the Western District of Wisconsin and Trial Attorneys Slava Kuperstein and Julie Pfluger of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. Information on the Justice Department’s efforts to combat human trafficking can be found at www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.
Updated November 28, 2023