Crime handcuffs RTSA

A federal grand jury in the Western District of Wisconsin returned an additional charge filed against a River Falls man yesterday.

They charged Austin Koeckeritz, 29, with labor and sex trafficking, production of child pornography, and money laundering.  

The superseding, or additional charges beyond what was originally filed, nine-count indictment charges Koeckeritz with forced labor, sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of a minor, interstate travel with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor, transporting a minor with the intent to  engage in criminal sexual activity, producing child pornography and three counts of money laundering. 

The indictment alleges that between August 2020 and August 2022, Koeckeritz used force to cause an adult to engage in forced labor and that he used force to cause this person to engage in commercial sex acts. 

The indictment further alleges that he recruited, enticed, transported and maintained a minor, knowing she would be caused to engage in commercial sex acts, that he traveled in interstate commerce to engage in illicit sexual conduct with the minor and that he transported the minor from Minnesota to Wisconsin with the intent that the minor engaged in sexual activity which constituted  second degree sexual assault of a child under Wisconsin law.

The indictment also alleges that Koeckeritz used the minor to produce child pornography. The offenses involving the minor are alleged to have occurred between October 2021 to January 2022.  

Finally, the indictment charges Koeckeritz with three counts of laundering the proceeds of the alleged forced labor and sex trafficking. 

Koeckeritz previously was charged with one count of forced labor in an indictment returned by the grand jury on Jan. 12. He is being held in federal  custody pending trial, which is scheduled for May 8 before U.S. District Judge James Peterson. 

The forced labor charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years, and the sex trafficking by force charge and the production of child pornography charges carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of life. 

The charge of interstate travel with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor carries a  maximum penalty of 30 years, and the sex trafficking of a minor and transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity carry a  mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years and a maximum of life. The maximum penalty for each money laundering charge is 20 years. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil  Rights Division, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin Timothy M. O’Shea and Special Agent in Charge Michael E. Hensle of the FBI Milwaukee Field Office made the announcement. 

The FBI Milwaukee Field Office and the River Falls Police Department investigated the case. The Pierce County District Attorney’s Office provided assistance. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Taylor Kraus for 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. 

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