SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Monday his Human Trafficking Unit has filed criminal charges against Vinson Alexander, 30, of Florida, who is accused of human trafficking and allegedly assaulting a young woman, after forcing her to work as a stripper in Southeast Michigan. Vinson's accomplice, Taryn Johnson, 27, of Tennessee, also faces a human trafficking charge. The charges result from an investigation by Southfield Police Department with assistance from the FBI through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force (SEMCAC).
"Our Constitution's 13th amendment bans slavery in all its forms, but human traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to exploit victims right here in Michigan," said Schuette. "It's time to stop the horrifying reality that our own citizens are bound in the chains of modern day slavery. Our daughters, friends, and neighbors are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other forced labor by criminals who take advantage of them."
Vinson Alexander is accused of enslaving a young woman and forcing her to work as a stripper in Southeast Michigan since December 2012. Alexander's accomplice, Taryn Johnson, allegedly recruited the 18 year-old victim, luring her with promises of a good salary. Alexander allegedly collected all her earnings, and used threats and violence to control the victim when she resisted. On February 21, 2013, it is alleged Alexander violently assaulted the victim, resulting in serious injury.
Schuette filed the following criminal charges against Vinson Alexander in Southfield's 46th District Court on February 22, 2013:
One count of Human Trafficking – Forced Labor for a Commercial Sex Act, a 20-year felony;
One count of Human Trafficking – Forced Labor Causing Serious Physical Harm, a 20-year felony;
One count of Human Trafficking – Financially Benefitting from a Human Trafficking Venture, a 10-year felony;
One count of Criminal Enterprises – Acquire/ Maintain (Racketeering), a 20-year felony; and,
One count of Torture, a felony punishable by life in prison.
The following criminal charge against Taryn Johnson was filed in Southfield's 46th District Court on February 22, 2013:
One count of Human Trafficking – Recruiting for Forced Labor, a 10-year felony.
Alexander and Johnson were arrested in Southfield on February 22, 2013 by the Southfield Police Department. Both defendants were arraigned on the charges on February 25, 2013 by Magistrate Donna Posey. A $1,000,000 bond was set for Alexander. A $750,000 bond was set for Johnson. Both are next due in 46th District Court for a Pre-Exam Conference on March 1, 2013 and a Preliminary Exam on March 8, 2013.
"I'd like to thank the Southfield Police Department for their assistance in this important arrest," said Schuette. "Human trafficking is a very difficult crime to identify and detect, and we appreciate the diligence of the investigators handling this case."
"The Southfield Police Department is committed to working with our federal and local law enforcement partners to eliminate any and all forms of human trafficking in Southeast Michigan," said Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins.
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's 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.
Since its launch in 2011, Schuette's Human Trafficking Unit has secured five human trafficking convictions. For more information on how to identify and report human trafficking, visit the Attorney General's website, www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.