BILLINGS – A South Carolina man accused in a large sex trafficking scheme in Montana and other states on Friday, Nov. 12 admitted to several related felony charges in federal court, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a press release.
As part of a plea agreement, Louis Gregory Venning, also known as “December,” 41, of Charlestonpleaded guilty to sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of a minor, transportation of a person with intent to engage in prostitution, fraud and coercion and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Venning was detained pending further proceedings.
If the court accepts the agreement reached in this case, nine other counts of sex trafficking, transportation for prostitution and drug trafficking crimes charged in a second superseding indictment are to be dismissed at sentencing and the government will agree not to seek additional charges.
Restitution relating to all counts in the second superseding indictment is mandatory as part of the plea agreement and Venning.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. DeSoto said she would recommend that Venning’s plea be accepted by U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen, who will sentence Venning.
Sentencing has been set for March 15, 2022. Christensen will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
According to court documentns, more than a dozen women and girls, identified as Jane Does, were recruited, coerced and forced by Venning to engage in commercial sex in Billings and other communities througout the state. Venning also reportedly took some of the Jane Does from Montana to other states, including Wyoming, Missouri and Georgia, for commercial sex work.
The government alleges in 2012, Venning transported a victim, identified as Jane Doe 5, from Montana to Georgia and Missouri to engage in prostitution.
In August 2018 in Billings Venning coerced a girl who was under the age of 18, identified as Jane Doe 8, to engage in commercial sex, government alleged.
The government further alleges that in 2019 Venning met Jane Doe 9 in a motel in Missoula after responding to one of Jane Doe 9’s ads for commercial sex. Venning discussed a plan for her to work for him, which she ultimately did. Venning then became abusive toward Jane Doe 9, including physically assaulting her.
In addition, Venning possessed cocaine with intent to distribute the drug. During the investigation, Jane Does 3 and 4 told law enforcement that while being trafficked for sex under Venning’s control, they received cocaine from him. Social media posts collected during the investigation show Venning bragging about and sending cocaine to various individuals.
In courts documents and in statements in court, the government alleged that at various times from 2012 to 2020, Venning trafficked women and girls for commercial sex and also distributed illegal narcotics, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Venning used coercion and force, violence and threats of violence and the widespread use of drugs to advance his criminal goals, charging documents allege.
Venning faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years to life in prison, a $250,000 fine, five years to life of supervised release and a $5,000 special assessment on the most serious crime of sex trafficking.
On June 11, 2020, Venning ‘s co-defendandent Destiny Lachelle Nilsen, 26, of Billings, pleaded guilty to taking three people to the bus station in Billings for a trip to Georgia to engage in commercial sexual activity charges. Nilsen, also known as “Diamond”, pleaded guilty to transportation of a person with intent to engage in prostitution. Nilsen faces a maximum of 10 years. Nilsen was released pending further proceedings.
Court records filed by the prosecution said the evidence showed that in August 2019 Nilsen was affiliated with Venning and was aware that Venning was involved in commercial sex in Billings and elsewhere, including other states.
The government alleged that in August 2019, Nilsen drove Venning and two women, identified as Jane Does, to the bus station. The Venning and the two Jane Does were going to Georgia to engage in commercial sex. Prostitution is illegal in Georgia. In a subsequent jail call, Nilsen admitted her participation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zeno Baucus and Bryan Dake prosecuted Nilsen’s case, which was investigated by the FBI.