FARGO, N.D. — An Illinois man was convicted in federal court Thursday on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking five victims, one of which was a juvenile.
This conviction resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the Fargo (North Dakota) Police Department, the Cass County (North Dakota) Sheriff’s Office, and the Moorhead (Minnesota) Police Department.
Anthony Donte Collier, aka Koleone the Great, 29, was found guilty following an 11 ½-day jury trial of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, sex trafficking a child, and four counts of sex trafficking.
This case came to the attention of law enforcement after Collier’s state probation officer discovered an image on Collier’s Facebook page depicting a young woman on her knees, dressed in lingerie, with a dog collar around her neck attached to a leash, which was held by Collier. Law enforcement learned that Collier was frequenting hotels with that same woman depicted in the image and subsequently obtained a search warrant for Collier’s cellphone, which contained images of several women, including a 17-year-old girl.
During the forensic examination of the cellphone, law enforcement found that the same images located on Collier’s cellphone were also seen on Backpage.com under the “Escort” section. The exam further revealed that the cellphone was utilized to purchase Bitcoins, which were ultimately used to purchase ads on Backpage.com; the ads depicted the same women/photos. Backpage.com is an online classified advertising company, which Collier used to advertise the women for sex.
Collier’s victims were subsequently identified and interviewed, during which time they disclosed that Collier assaulted them, including urinating on one of the victims, to compel the victims to engage in commercial sex acts. The sex acts occurred in hotels as well as private residences located in both Moorhead and Fargo. A total of five victims were identified and interviewed as part of this criminal investigation.
U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson has set sentencing for July 24 in the U.S. District Court Fargo.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jennifer Puhl and Brett Shasky, District of North Dakota, prosecuted this case.
This case was prosecuted with the assistance of the North Dakota Human Trafficking Task Force (NDHTTF), which includes regional response teams that consist of federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim-service providers working together to identify and rescue human trafficking victims, as well as investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases. Led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ND BCI, and the North Dakota Counsel on Abused Women Services (CAWS), the NDHTTF is dedicated to addressing the individualized needs of human trafficking victims and the apprehension, investigation, and prosecution of the perpetrators of human trafficking.
The NDHTTF includes representatives from the following agencies: Youthworks, the Children’s Advocacy Center, the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Lutheran Social Services, the ND Association of Counties, a Force to End hUman Sexual Exploitation (FUSE), First Nations Women’s Alliance (FNWA), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.