Jury finds Chicago man guilty of sex trafficking five women in Fargo-Moorhead
FARGO — Inside a federal district courtroom here Wednesday, April 19, a jury found a Chicago man innocent of witness tampering but guilty of conspiracy and sex trafficking five women, including one minor.
The defendant, 29-year-old Anthony Donte Collier, aka Koleone the Great, is convicted of trafficking the five victims from April 2015 through August 2016 between Minnesota and North Dakota. His case was moved to federal court in Fargo after originating in Minnesota, where Collier once faced 15 charges in Clay County District Court of sex trafficking.
In total, Collier faced seven charges in North Dakota ranging from conspiracy, four charges of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion, and one charge of attempted sex trafficking of a woman under the age of 18. Another charge of witness tampering was added to the case in early March.
Collier's federal trial began April 4 and was anticipated to last about two weeks. Though a verdict was reached Wednesday, the jury will reconvene Thursday, April 20, to take up the forfeiture allegation involving Collier's Dell laptop and two cellphones seized as evidence.
On Wednesday, Collier was dressed in a navy blue suit and matching tie. He sat next to a stack of legal books and paperwork and his stand-by legal counsel, Fargo attorney William Kirschner.
Following the verdict, Kirschner said Collier plans on appealing the charges and maintains that his business wasn't created to commit prostitution, rather "these women committed acts of prostitution on their own."
Collier registered a business, BGI Promotions LLC, with the North Dakota secretary of state in October 2015 for the purpose of recruiting prostitutes, court documents state. He also took photographs of the five victims in "sexually suggestive poses" to post under the escort section of backpage.com.
Kirschner said his client's BGI contracts and ads did not promote prostitution.
The investigation into Collier's sex trafficking started while he was on supervised release after being convicted in a 2011 armed robbery of a Moorhead Stop-N-Go with his younger brother and another man, who were both also convicted. Collier served 68 months for the armed robbery and was released in March 2015.
Within one month of his release, Collier absconded and was arrested in Fargo. He was released a second time in August 2015 and moved to a Department of Corrections house in Moorhead, where police began monitoring his social media and hotel activities.
Collier's Facebook showed him posting photos of a lot of cash, though unemployed, and a woman "on her knees wearing a red bikini top, a red bow and a collar around her neck attached to a leash being held by Collier," court documents state.
At the start of the trial, Collier was offered a plea deal of 20 years in prison from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl, but he rejected the offer. He is facing anywhere from 15.5 to 24 years, court documents state, but sentencing won't take place for several more months.