Charges: Wis. man involved in sex trafficking ring at Twin Cities hotels

- A Wisconsin man is facing felony charges for his involvement in a sex trafficking ring that allegedly brought young Asian women from out of state to the Twin Cities to engage in prostitution.

Brian Kersten, 60, of Pleasant Valley, Wis. is accused of helping the leader of the ring, a woman identified as Shixin Zhang, by transporting the young women from the airport to the hotels and collecting money from them.

Police learned of Kersten’s involvement in the sex trafficking ring during their investigation of prostitution at the Extended Stay hotel in Woodbury, Minn. on July 30. Investigators found the phone number used to reserve rooms at the hotel was also listed on an advertisement on Backpage.com, a popular online site for selling and soliciting individuals for sex and sexual acts. The advertisement showed a young Asian woman and offered services in the Twin Cities.

A subsequent investigation determined Kersten had transported a young Asian woman from the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport to the Extended Stay hotel on July 30 and helped her check in before leaving, according to the criminal complaint. The woman told police she had previously lived in Georgia and had been offered a job in the Twin Cities giving massages at a “spa.”

Detectives also learned Kersten had previously made several suspicious money transfers to financial institutions in China. He also made three suspicious money wire transfers via Money Gram in Wal-Mart, which police believe were kept under $10,000 each to avoid having to file a currency transaction report.

A family member told Wisconsin law enforcement officials Kersten has visited “China where his prostitute was” and that he was bringing young Chinese girls to the area where they were being “trafficked by ways of massage parlors.”

Kersten was arrested and booked into the Washington County Jail last Friday. He is being charged with felony sex trafficking.


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