A western Wisconsin man has pleaded guilty in connection with allegations that he kept a woman captive in his home, forced her to appear on sexually explicit websites such as Only Fans and then kept the money being paid by viewers.
Austin Koeckeritz, 29, of River Falls, admitted in U.S. District Court to sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Koeckeritz also pleaded guilty to trafficking of a minor stemming from accusations that he sexually exploited a girl who was 14 or 15 years old at the time.
"Sex trafficking continues to be prevalent because traffickers see the profits they can make from exploiting the vulnerable victims they target," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in a statement issued after the guilty pleas were entered.
"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."
Koeckeritz faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison. A date for sentencing has yet to be scheduled. In the meantime, he remains in federal custody in the Columbia County jail in Portage, Wis.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office and court documents:
Koeckeritz and the woman met on Facebook in August 2020, and she moved in with him within a week.
As the relationship continued, Koeckeritz became physically abusive and verbally threatening.
Koeckeritz told the woman at one point, "If anybody comes to get you from this house, I will shoot them," one document quoted him as saying. He also chased her around while brandishing a gun.
The woman was subjected to repeated sexual assaults by Koeckeritz He also had the teenage girl sexually assault the woman at least once.
During the time he forced the woman to appear in sexually explicit ways on Only Fans and other streaming sites, Koeckeritz kept the woman isolated in the home while monitoring her phone calls and social media use. She did not receive any of the money coming in from the streamings.
The defense, in its own filing, painted a different picture of the relationship between Koeckeritz and the woman.
His lawyers wrote that the two started a company together, with Koeckeritz owning 60% and she the balance.
"The business model was simple," the defense filing wrote. "[The woman] would appear on Only Fans and a handful of similar sites and stream sexually explicit videos for 'fans' who would pay for access to the videos."
The woman was paid in various ways, whether it be tips, wages or money held in a business bank account, and she had access to her earnings, the defense contended.
"While this type of employment ... may be unsavory," the defense attorneys continued, "it is legal and, at least since the pandemic, has become much more prevalent."
The arrangement soured when the woman "became dissatisfied with the relationship with Koeckeritz, personally and professionally," the defense noted.
The woman contacted her sister and a friend, who then alleged to police that Koeckeritz was holding her captive and trafficking her for sex. He was arrested in August 2022 and indicted in January 2023.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking is encouraged to contact the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. More information is available at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.