Three Arrested in Lansing
In the wake of the third arrest of a suspected trafficker from a Lansing based child sex trafficking ring, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles Jr. has made a statement about his office’s concern over the growing problem of human trafficking in Michigan.
Miles says that his office covers 49 counties in Michigan, and has chosen to make the prosecution of these types of crimes a priority. He says that child sex trafficking is becoming more and more widespread with the use of social media sites like Facebook, and online advertising sites like Craigslist and Backpage.com which offer anonymity to criminals.
Because the internet allows anyone to claim any identity, making it increasingly difficult to discern the truth behind people’s motives, and the fact that online payments can be made quickly and anonymously, it has become even easier for criminals to traffick minors and then offer them up as wares to all interested buyers.
The three people who have been arrested and charged in the recently discovered Lansing-based trafficking ring include Christopher Bryant, 24, Jonathan Purnell, 27, and Mariah Haughton, 17. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the group used Backpage.com to advertise the trafficked minors for sexual services.
The victims, who number at least eight in total, were girls who ranged in age from 15 to 17-years-old, who were recruited through Facebook, and then either enticed or forced to perform sexual acts with strangers for money.
Bryant is charged with five counts of sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking by persuasion, fraud, and interstate transportation for the purpose of prostitution. His charges are federal, while Haughton and Purnell are being charged locally.
Purnell is charged with four counts of human trafficking, recruiting minors, five counts of prostitution and pandering, and a single count of using a computer to commit a felony. Court documents list him as a third degree repeat offender. Haughton is charged with seven counts, which include human trafficking by recruiting minors for sexually abusive activity.
“Child exploitation is a very serious crime, it’s a growing crime.” says Miles, “This has been a priority of our office. Child sex trafficking and human trafficking is a priority of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Holder, protecting the vulnerable.”
The Lansing Police Department is asking that anyone with any information with regard to human trafficking in the Lansing area please contact police at 517-483-4600.