WARREN, Mich. – Warren Mayor James Fouts and Police Commissioner William Dwyer held a press conference Friday morning to announce the results of the first phase of the “Operations Crusade,” or what they call the "major initiative to combat human trafficking in Metro Detroit."
Also attending the press conference were members of the Special Investigation Unit and a handful of detectives involved in the criminal investigation.
The sting operation, finalized by a decoy operation conducted by two undercover female police officers, resulted in the arrest of 18 males and 17 females with a total of 75 charges -- 45 misdemeanors and 30 felony.
“Those charges ranged from transporting a prostitute, which is a 20 year felony, to accepting the earnings of a prostitute, which is a 20 year felony, to keeping a house of prostitution which is a five year felony,” Dwyer said. “We also had a number of charges that resulted in engaging in the act of prostitution, solicitation, which is a misdemeanor, and the use of a computer to commit a crime, which is also a misdemeanor.”
In addition to the arrests, narcotics such as crack-cocaine, heroin, and other types of drugs were seized during the operation.
Those charged in the operations crusade include: Jason Choi, Eric Hecker, Howard Carr, Kyle Cardella, Edward Gomez, Thomas Ferebee, Tanver Hussain Jonathon Besedich, Nicholas Mayes, Erik Gustafson, Jessica Rice, Kenneth George, Alexandru Ardelean, Eric Moran, Edward Gordon, Troy Hay, Peter Romaya, Jamie Burton, Kaleigh Fee, Amy Saleh, Saphina Watson, Jill Welcher, Katelyn Ling, Monica Jones, Jessie Newton, Bassam Toma, Heather Seigmiller, Danielle Poff-Norris, Caroline Colangelo, Destinie McKiddie, Heather Mathes, Bethany Tafelski.
Dwyer said those convicted are from areas including Waterford, Roseville, Detroit, Macomb Township, Farmington Hills, Belleview, Southfield and many other Michigan cities.
The operation began on May 14 and continued until early morning May 16. Dwyer said the operation also helped them identify additional victims of human trafficking.
“Human trafficking is often referred to as a modern day slavery, as we all know,” Dwyer said. “It’s a multibillion dollar industry, it denies freedom to over 20 million people around the world. Human trafficking affects every community in the United States ... Michigan has the 11th highest call volume to the national human trafficking hotline. Our goal is to arrest, convict those persons and work with the victims, it is very important to work with the victims and that is what we’re doing, and educate public awareness. We did this during the past three days and collected evidence of human trafficking intelligence information which is going to help us with our additional phases coming up in the future."
Those arraigned in the operation received bonds ranging from $20,000 dollars to more than $150,000, reported Dwyer.
Mayor Fouts praised the work of the special investigation division and affirmed that his top priority is to keep the city clean and safe.
“I want people to feel safe when they move to Warren but I also want them to feel safe not just in the neighborhoods but also in the many hotels we have,” Fouts said. “This goes a long way toward ensuring that people who are visitors ... this is a step in the right direction of having the goal of a clean and safe city and first of all, including our neighborhoods and also our hotels. Our police department under operation crusade aims to completely eliminate human trafficking, and to me, that’s a high priority.”
Fouts believes the pharmaceutical industry is partially to blame, as he revealed much of the young women picked up and arrested were under the influence of drugs. He promised to try to tackle this issue in the near future.
“One thing should be abundantly clear, virtually every one of these young women that was picked up and arrested was under the influence of drugs, they’re all addicted to drugs, they become enslaved by drugs," Fouts said. "The only reward they have at the end of their work, it’s not money, its drugs."
Fouts wishes the two women rescued to be labeled as victims. To save these victims, he suggests, the city of Warren and the United States as a whole should take a deeper look at the underlying drug problem.
“We don’t often think of prostitution of being a crime of human victims but there’s prostitution and there's innocent young women that get hooked up to drugs and become a slave to this horrible thing, so I commend everybody here today for a step in the right direction,” Fouts said. “The goal is to have a clean and safe city, and the goal should be for the United States to have a clean and safe country, and that starts with stopping human trafficking and that starts with one of the causes of that, drugs. Thank you.”