BISMARCK – A Milwaukee man pleaded guilty Thursday to enticing two women to travel to North Dakota to work as prostitutes.
Levell Lee Durr, 32, pleaded guilty to a charge of coercion and enticement in U.S. District Court. A plea agreement calls for Durr to serve one year, nine months in prison. He will be sentenced in January.
Durr admitted in court that he encouraged two women to travel from Wisconsin to Minot for the purposes of prostitution, but denied that he coerced or forced the women.
Durr acknowledged that he helped the women place escort ads on backpage.com and profited from the commercial sex acts. The activities occurred between May 1 and June 9 in Minot, according to the plea agreement.
A victim who spoke to FBI investigators said the women were held against their will and forced to use heroin every morning, according to federal court records.
Durr denied drugging the women or using force or coercion.
“He’s very adamant coercion was not an issue,” said defense attorney Neil Fulton.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Delorme said Durr “at a minimum” induced and/or enticed the women to travel to North Dakota for the purposes of prostitution.
The woman who spoke to the FBI said she and another woman could make $15,000 a week working as prostitutes in North Dakota, and Durr would only allow them to keep enough money to get something from a vending machine, according to a court affidavit.
The court affidavit filed in June mentioned three potential victims -- a 15-year-old in addition to two adult women. U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said prosecutors charged what they were able to prove.
After the hearing, Purdon said the prosecution of Durr would not have been possible without the assistance of Windie Lazenko, founder of 4her North Dakota, which assists victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
“This case is a great example of the need for services for the victims in these cases,” Purdon said.