FLINT, Mich. – Two “generals” working under a Michigan man who filed his teeth down to points to intimidate his human trafficking victims have been taken into custody, and 20 new charges were issued against the leader after more haunting details came to light.
“I knew this serial monster was bad, but I did not realize he’s as bad as what I’m going to tell you today.”
That’s how Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson began a briefing Tuesday (Jan. 10) before diving into the horrific details surrounding this human trafficking case.
20-year-old woman kidnapped, trafficked
Swanson said Barajas was building a human trafficking gang called the “Masaad Squad.”
Around Thanksgiving, he sent Alex Matthew Schmidt, 23, and another man out in a yellow Hummer to search for vulnerable women, according to authorities.
They found a 20-year-old woman walking along the side of the road in east Flint and offered her a warm place to stay, a shower, and food, officials said.
“It’s the bare needs of an individual,” Swanson said. “It’s the basic hygiene that she so needed. That was the grooming hook that they used. Brought her into the yellow Hummer, took her to the house (where) Barajas was waiting, because he was building out a gang to do these kinds of things called the ‘Masaad Squad.’”
Swanson said Barajas wasn’t in the Hummer at the time, but he orchestrated the kidnapping. He trained people to go out and find vulnerable women and bring them to a house, which acted as their “human trafficking headquarters,” according to authorities.
“The term ‘Masaad Squad’ was, I’m sure, in his mind, something that he was trying to create to form a sex industry trade,” Swanson said.
Schmidt was the driver of the Hummer, according to police.
The 20-year-old woman was brought to a house on Marmion Avenue near the intersection of Center and Davison roads in Flint.
From around Thanksgiving until Dec. 8, the woman was raped by men while Barajas and his generals held her down using ropes or other items, Swanson said.
At times, they would hold guns up to her head or force her to put a pacifier in her mouth and call them “daddy,” according to officials.
“Barajas held (a gun) to the head of our victim and said, ‘If you don’t do this, I’m going to kill you,’” Swanson said.
He also filed his teeth into points as another manner of intimidating his victims.
“He would tell the victim, ‘I’m going to rip your throat out if you don’t do what I tell you to do, and you don’t comply,’” Swanson said. “It’s dominance. It’s kidnapping. It’s grooming.”
Woman escapes on 3rd try
The woman tried to escape three times while she was being held at the house against her will.
Swanson said the doors at the house were barricaded with locks, and the windows were screwed shut with drywall screws.
The first time the woman tried to escape, she was able to get out the front door.
“She had an opportunity,” Swanson said. “She ran out the door, and as she was running down the street, they fired a round at her, they tackled her. She actually stabbed Barajas at one point. They dragged her back.”
Another time, the woman got out of the house and went to a nearby McDonald’s, but Barajas and his men found her and threatened to kill her if she made any statements, according to authorities.
“She went back a second time against her will,” Swanson said.
On Dec. 8, the woman finally got away.
“She had a medical emergency (and) a 911 call was made,” Swanson said. “She was brought to the hospital, and that’s where she was rescued.”
The house was raided the day of the woman’s rescue, and Barajas was taken into custody. At that time, he was charged with seven felonies, including kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct, and assault with a dangerous weapon.
His first cash bond was set at $250,000.
During the raid, police found one gun, but Swanson said there is a second gun that hasn’t been found yet.
Second victim comes forward
After the story of Barajas’ arrest broke, Swanson said another former victim came forward.
On Jan. 3, the woman told police that seeing coverage of the woman who escaped gave her the courage to share her story.
“Even when a single word was heard by our second victim, she would shudder in pain and fear because there are so many different reminders,” Swanson said.
The woman said she was targeted by Barajas in 2003, when she was just 4 years old.
“At age 4, she was put into a situation because of her connection as the child of an adult to Barajas’ family of adults,” Swanson said. “Almost the same type of threats, the same type of intimidation, and the same type of sexual assault.”
The woman said these incidents happened four or five times a week, and 100 or more times overall.
Swanson said the woman’s nightmare continued until 2007, when she was either 8 or 9 years old.
“It was only because that relationship of the adults broke up that she was rescued and she was taken out of the situation, never to tell her story until Jan. 3, 2023,” Swanson said. “Her torture and her nightmare ended in 2007. So from 2007 to 2022, when we got in, how many other victims are along that timeline?”
New charges for Barajas
Swanson said 20 additional felony charges were filed against Barajas after the second woman shared her story.
Among those charges are 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. He’s also charged with intimidation and bribery, a 10-year felony, as well as weapons offenses.
“He’s a serial monster,” Swanson said. “Rarely do I ever give an adjective and name to somebody like this. But when you look at this and you see the statements that are given and what he provides, this is exactly what happens. He did not stop targeting his victims.”
Barajas was arraigned on the new charges and is now in jail without bond.
“The brutality, the look, the intimidation -- I’ve seen nothing like it,” Swanson said.
2 more people arrested
Since taking Barajas into custody, police have arrested two more people involved in his human trafficking operation, according to Swanson.
Schmidt was taken into custody and is facing kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault charges.
Jojuan Najee Howze, 33, was a “participant in the violent sex ring,” Swanson said. Howze has been charged with kidnapping and four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Police search for 2 more men
Swanson said police are still searching for two more men, one of which is Cody Lohrer.
“We need to find him,” Swanson said. “He’s got information that is critical to this case. He’s got information that I know, as an active participant -- he is, at this point, since there’s no formal charges, he is an individual of interest. But we’re going to find him, and we’re going to find Lil Ryan, as well.”
Lil Ryan is the street name of the other man wanted by police. Swanson said they don’t have any other information about him.
“If you know who this cat is, you call 911 and let law enforcement do our part to go track him down,” Swanson said.
Search for more victims, suspects
Swanson said police are still searching for more people who were victimized by Barajas and his operation between 2007 and 2022.
He said he “knows” there are more victims out there, and he encouraged them to call authorities.
Officials also plan to track down the “consumers” of Barajas’ sex trafficking.
“I will tell you this: If you took advantage of any of these females, or any other female or male in a sex slave ring, we’re going to find you,” Swanson said. “You can try to hide it from your families, your friends, you can try to go and put different names on your phones under different profiles and try to do ghost apps -- we’ll find you.
“All those individuals that came to the house (where) Barajas held her captive, they’re just as guilty as human traffickers because they’re consumers of somebody being trafficked.”
More photos from inside house
Click here to watch the full briefing from Swanson on the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.