A western Wisconsin veterinarian accused of shuttling unwitting sex workers was sentenced Wednesday in Minnesota to prison on two felonies, including one that was the first conviction of its kind in the state.
Washington County District Court Judge William Ekstrum sentenced 61-year-old Brian Kersten to 53 months - nearly three years of which must be served in prison.
Kersten, a town of Pleasant Valley resident who worked at Baldwin Veterinary Center, was convicted in October 2016 of sex trafficking and labor trafficking.
Washington County District Attorney Pete Orput said in a statement that the labor trafficking conviction was the first of its kind in Minnesota.
“Kersten was part of an international conspiracy to bring foreign nationals into Minnesota for the purpose of prostituting them,” Washington County prosecutor Imran Ali said. “We have to remember that these are not victimless crimes. All these women being trafficked are indeed victims.”
According to a criminal complaint, Kersten shuttled a Chinese woman in July 2016 from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to a Woodbury hotel. Prosecutors said the woman was brought to the United States under the auspices that she’d be working as a high-paid massage parlor employee.
It was later revealed that the woman was brought overseas to work as a prostitute. Kersten, who collected money for a New York woman allegedly running the operation through Backpage.com, was connected to more than $45,000 suspicious wire transfers earlier in the year to China.
A Kersten family member told law enforcement officers from Wisconsin that Kersten visited his prostitute in China and that he was bringing young girls from China to be trafficked at massage parlors, the complaint said.
Kersten, using a veterinary-owned van, made three other visits to the airport in August 2016, according to the charges.
“This case merely shows the depth and breadth of the sex trafficking occurring” in Minnesota, Orput said. “We, as a concerned public, need to acknowledge this and persevere in doing all we can to bring labor and sex traffickers to the justice they deserve.”
According to the Baldwin Veterinary Center's website, Kersten has been a vet for 25 years specializing in small animals, food animals and equine medicine.