A Wisconsin veterinarian has been charged in Washington County for the alleged sex trafficking of a Chinese woman who barely speaks English.
Brian Lee Kersten, 60, of Pleasant Valley, Wis., is accused of arranging sex trafficking under the guise of massage services at a Woodbury hotel. He owns the Baldwin Veterinary Center in Baldwin, Wis., according to the criminal complaint.
Kersten was released Monday on bond from the county jail. He next appears in court on Sept. 19.
Employees at the hotel, Woodbury Extended Stay on Hudson Road, tipped police to suspicious activity after receiving an internal alert that a possible sex trafficking group involving Asian women was attempting to operate in Extended Stay hotels throughout the metro area.
Police and prosecutors say they've been training hotel workers to detect sex trafficking as it becomes more prolific in suburban cities. Traffickers use backpage.com advertisements, internet communications and phone apps to arrange for meetings, often arranging hookups outside Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"It's all about awareness," said Fred Fink, criminal division chief at the Washington County attorney's office. "The clerk was aware and as a result of training we were able to put a case together."
The woman implicated in alleged prostitution at the hotel, referred to as S.L. in the complaint, told police through an interpreter that she was "tricked" into flying to Minnesota from Georgia on the promise of working at a massage salon.
S.L. signed the registration for a room at the Woodbury hotel with Chinese characters. She was accompanied by a "questionable" man, according to the complaint, who told the clerk they had "no vehicle" but then left in one after registration was completed.
That man was Kersten, according to the complaint, who conspired with two other people "to bring females from out of state to Minnesota for purposes of prostitution."
Woodbury police investigators set up surveillance in the room across the hall. Eventually two officers confronted S.L., who was taken to a local abuse shelter. She told them that Kersten had met her at the airport and driven her to the hotel.
Kersten has been in veterinary practice for 25 years since graduating from the University of Minnesota, according to the Baldwin Veterinary website, and spent 2½ years in Haiti helping with relief efforts.
Of the criminal charge against Kersten, Fink said: "It cuts across the normal stereotype a lot of people have as to who is a trafficker."