Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Wednesday his office had arrested five southeast Michigan residents for conducting a human trafficking operation out of Southfield and Detroit.
Mustaffa Hassan Muhammad 31, of Detroit; Tara Muhammad 32, of Chesterfield Township; Brooklyn Marie Siebert, 29 of Warren; Rita Jean Jemison 25, of Detroit; and Jason Michael Sherrill, 31, of Detroit are each charged with multiple felonies including Human Trafficking, Pandering, Accepting the Earnings of a Prostitute and Racketeering.
The charges result from an extensive investigation conducted by Michigan State Police and the FBI through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children (SEMCAC) Task Force that revealed human trafficking through a prostitution ring, called “Detroit Pink,” involving at least one minor, as well as forced drug running across the country.
Schuette said it is alleged Mustaffa Muhammad, together with his now estranged wife, Tara Muhammad, launched the prostitution ring called “Detroit Pink” in 2006. The couple allegedly set up Detroit Pink as an online escort service with approximately two dozen prostitutes.
Schuette said the prostitutes were allegedly photographed nearly naked and posted on various websites as available for "dates," usually for rates of $150 per half hour and $300 per hour.
According to witness statements, the Detroit Pink website ceased operation sometime in 2007. However, the Muhammads allegedly continued to run a prostitution ring by continuing to post the girls for prostitution individually. Anywhere from $50/date up to the entire fee of the date was collected by either Mustaffa or Tara.
Most significantly, a juvenile victim has been identified who reported working as a prostitute for Mustaffa when she was only 15-years old. It is alleged Mustaffa, Siebert and Jemison as posted ads, transported and collected the proceeds from the juvenile’s dates, thus engaging in human trafficking of the minor.
Schuette alleges Mustaffa was aided in his efforts to sexually exploit women and at least one child through prostitution by Siebert, Jemison and Sherill.
The two women were the most trusted prostitutes who aided Mustaffa in his duties. Siebert and Jemison allegedly collected proceeds from other prostitutes for Mustaffa, posted ads for other prostitutes and provided transportation for other prostitutes. In addition, Jemison and Siebert continued to prostitute for Mustaffa.
Sherrill allegedly served as the “computer guy,” primarily responsible for posting ads for Mustaffa’s girls and occasionally transporting girls for dates. Sherrill is reported to be living in a house provided by Mustaffa, and Schuette alleges that his work in posting ads for Mustaffa’s prostitutes is in exchange for room and board. While Mustaffa lives with several of his prostitutes in Detroit, most of his prostitution activities allegedly took place in Southfield hotels.
In addition to the criminal charges for the prostitution ring, Mustaffa faces charges for allegedly forcing one woman to serve as a drug runner from Texas to Michigan against her will.
It is alleged Mustaffa coordinated a scheme to distribute marijuana and ecstasy from the Southwest U.S. to sell in Detroit drug houses. One female human trafficking victim has come forward, indicating that Mustaffa, through violence and threats, allegedly forced her to travel to and from Texas transporting drugs for Mustaffa throughout the summer of 2011. This is the basis for one of the Human Trafficking charges against Mustaffa, and is the first case of labor trafficking charged by Schuette’s office.
All five defendants were arrested Wednesday and are expected to be arraigned Thursday in Southfield’s 46th District Court.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery and it is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal industry in the world, after drug trafficking. Victims of human trafficking are in bondage through force, fraud or coercion, solely for the purpose of sex or labor exploitation. Children are especially vulnerable. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2,515 incidents of human trafficking were recorded nationwide between January 2008 and June 2010. Of those incidents, 1,016 involved the sexual exploitation of a child, 1,218 involved the sexual exploitation of adults, and 350 involved labor trafficking.
The Michigan law banning Human Trafficking (MCL 760.462a, et seq.) went into effect on August 24, 2006. The law was strengthened in 2010, with those changes taking effect on April 1, 2011. Updates to the law included: adding human trafficking to the list of predicate offenses that fall under the state racketeering law, authorizing additional court-ordered restitution for trafficking victims, and stronger penalties.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.