MADISON (WKOW) – After a five-day trial, a federal jury found Erin F. Graham, Jr., 37, of Madison, guilty of seven counts of sex trafficking.
The verdict was returned Friday, April 12, and announced by U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader for the Western District of Wisconsin.
According to prosecutors, between 2015 and 2017, Graham engaged in sex trafficking by force, coercion and fraud, and transported individuals across state lines with the intent that they engage in prostitution.
Graham posted advertisements on Backpage.com and forced or coerced individuals to commit sex acts with those who responded to the ads.
In addition, prosecutors say, Graham transported two individuals between Wisconsin and Virginia with the intent that they engage in prostitution.
The scheme was uncovered in April 2017 when law enforcement officials encountered one of the victims at a Madison hotel when an employee called 911 after the victim ran from her room bleeding and hid behind the front desk.
The victim told a nurse at a Madison hospital that she had been strangled to the point of unconsciousness by Graham when she told him she wanted to leave.
The victims testified that they were forced to engage in multiple acts of prostitution and turn over money they earned to Graham and his girlfriend, Patience Moore, 28, of Madison.
The victims testified that they were the only source of income for Graham and Moore. Moore pleaded guilty for her role in this sex trafficking scheme on March 14.
“Through violence and coercion, Graham exploited vulnerable young women into committing commercial sex acts for his profit. In the process the victims were often degraded and robbed of their human dignity,” Blader said. “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to bring human traffickers to justice.”
Traffickers use various techniques, including fraud, coercion and drugs – often opioids – to lure their victims and force them into commercial sexual or labor exploitation.
The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help.
The prosecution of sex traffickers is a priority for the Justice Department and all U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.
Federal law provides severe penalties for these offenders. Since 2017, three sex traffickers convicted in the Western District of Wisconsin have received sentences totaling 58 years.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson scheduled Graham’s sentencing for July 1. Graham faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum of life in federal prison. Moore will be sentenced on June 5, and also faces a maximum of life.
The charges against Graham and Moore are the result of an investigation by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, with the assistance of the Madison, Grand Chute, Wisconsin State Capitol and Hampton (Virginia) Police Departments. The prosecution of the case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Pfluger and Kevin Burke.