Long Island City music school founder pleads guilty to federal sex trafficking charges

Photo via Google Maps/Inset Photo via Long Island City Academy of Music

A music teacher who founded the Long Island City Academy of Music pleaded guilty to sex trafficking charges after an investigation found that he solicited minors for sex.

Oliver Sohngen, 53, was arrested in May after he was caught trying to pay for sex from an undercover investigator posing as a 15-year-old girl online. Sohngen frequently exchanged texts with a Bronx man operating a sex trafficking ring to attempt to “engage in commercial sex acts” with girls from the ages of 8 to 17.

This operation was run from a man’s home in the Bronx on Davidson Avenue and Sohngen communicated with the man from March 2013 through November 2013, according to the criminal complaint. Sohngen would negotiate prices through text messages and meet with the girls at a hotel or the man’s home.

In November 2015, an undercover agent working with Homeland Security responded to a Craigslist ad posted by Sohngen, who also went by the names of Stephan Weierbach and Helmuth Moss online. The officer exchanged texts with Sohngen until January 2016 and pretended to be a 15-year-old girl.

According to a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office, Sohngen pleaded guilty to two counts of sex trafficking of a minor on Aug. 10, which carries a maximum term of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison.

He opened the Long Island City Academy of Music in 2010 where he and other music professionals taught a range of music classes. The school has since shut down.

According to a recent profile of Sohngen on The Huffington Post, he came to the United States to study music at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 2000, he moved to New York to try to find a way into the Metropolitan Opera.

He opened the Long Island City Academy of Music after dropping his young daughter off at ballet lessons at the Long Island City Arts Center and found an empty commercial space, which he turned into the music school.