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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Recognizes Human Trafficking Prevention Month

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

MADISON, WIS. - January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To commemorate the month and continue to raise awareness about this important issue, U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea reaffirmed his office’s commitment to fight against human trafficking by bringing traffickers to justice, assisting trafficked victims, and enhancing public awareness through community outreach.

Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion that is physical and/or psychological. The exploitation of a minor for commercial sex is human trafficking regardless of whether any form of force, fraud, or coercion is used by the trafficker.

“Human trafficking is a despicable crime that is happening, unfortunately, right here in Wisconsin,” said U.S. Attorney O’Shea. “Our federal prosecutions, described below, show our commitment to combat human trafficking and bring traffickers to justice. But there’s more work to be done. That’s why today, and every day, we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners, victim service providers, government entities, and the community to combine and strengthen our anti-trafficking efforts.”

U.S. Attorney O’Shea encouraged victims to come forward. “If you are a person forced into prostitution or human trafficking, help is available. There are advocates committed to help you find support and resources. There are local, state, and federal law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking. There are prosecutors who will work with law enforcement to hold traffickers accountable.”

U.S. Attorney O’Shea further encouraged anyone who knows about human trafficking to come forward, “Human trafficking is especially pervasive because people don’t want to get involved or are too afraid to come forward. If you know or suspect that someone is being trafficked, please report it using the contact numbers below. You can save that person’s life and the lives of many others. Most often, you can remain anonymous.” 

Our Office’s Human Trafficking Prosecutions

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s ongoing anti-trafficking efforts have resulted in many prosecutions that have led to convictions and prison sentences. In 2023, our prosecutions resulted in a notable sentencing and guilty plea:

United States v. Adrian Edwards. On November 9, 2023, Edwards, 40, Madison, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for sex trafficking a minor. Edwards encountered the 16-year-old victim in Utah in January 2021, when the two were at a mutual friend’s house. The victim confided to the defendant that she had a difficult home life and he offered to help her with a place to stay if she needed it. A few days later, the victim called Edwards to take him up on his offer. He bought her a train ticket to Iowa, where he picked her up and brought her to Wisconsin. When she arrived in Wisconsin, he told her she was expected to perform sex acts for money. He immediately took pictures of her and posted ads on websites offering various sexual services in exchange for money. Edwards set the prices, arranged the meetings, arranged for hotels, and kept the bulk of the money gained from the trafficking activity. Edwards was indicted in July 2021, and a federal arrest warrant was issued. He was ultimately arrested in January 2022 in Arizona.

United States v. Austin Koeckeritz. On November 23, 2023, Koeckeritz, 40, River Falls, Wisconsin, pled guilty to one count of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and one count of sex trafficking of a minor. According to court documents, Koeckeritz 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. Koeckeritz also caused a minor victim to engage in commercial sex acts in between October 2021 and January 2022. Sentencing is scheduled for April 11, 2024, at 01:00 pm before Chief Judge James D. Peterson.

How to Report Human Trafficking

If you believe you or someone else are the victim of human trafficking or have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

Specialists are available to answer calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also send a text to 233733 or submit a tip online.

Updated January 22, 2024

Project Safe Childhood
Human Trafficking