Undercover sting nets 5 human trafficking suspects

Crime

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – On Thursday, March 18, a sting operation ended with the arrest of 5 people. It was a joing effort between law enforcement in Marquette County and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office.

The five arrested on Thursday are:

  • Robert Jay Miller of Negaunee
  • Ameire Rackem Stevens of Skandia
  • Alan Brian Schwalbach of Vulcan
  • Keith David Johnson of Au Train
  • Chad Michael Anderson of Gwinn

Each of the suspects have been charged by the Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office with the following four offenses:

  • Child Sexually Abusive Activity – a felony with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or $100,000.
  • Use of a Computer to Commit Child Sexually Abusive Activity – a felony with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or $20,000.
  • Accosting a Child for Immoral Purposes – a felony with a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison and/or $4,000.
  • Use of a Computer to Commit Accosting a Child for Immoral Purposes – a felony with a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and/or $5,000.

These are all only charges at this time. No one has been convicted of any crimes.

Agencies involved in the sting operation include the Marquette County Sheriff’s Office, the Marquette Police Department, the Michigan State Police, the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET), and the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST).

On Friday March 19, a separate operation in Menominee County resulted in the arrest of one suspect. The Menominee County suspect’s name is Jeremy Bertrand. He faces one count of child sexually abusive activity, one count of use of computer to commit a felony, and one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes.

Authorities tell us there is no known connection between any of the suspects.

The model for the stings is to create a decoy operation, where law enforcement identifies people who might be interested in exploiting children for commercial sex purposes. authorities emphasized that there were no children used by law enforcement during the investigation.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Stephanie Krieger President of the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force talked about the creation of the task for and it’s goals.

  • Identify victims of all forms of human trafficking
  • Investigate & prosecute human trafficking cases at the local, state, and federal levels.
  • Identify and address victim/survivor needs and provide supportive services through our partners

“We all can fight for the voiceless. We all can stand up for someone that has been extremely vulernable. We all can do something. We can educate ourselves on what human trafficking is and what it looks like up here,” Krieger said.

The Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force oversees 15 counties.

“We’ve had a number of circumstances in Marquette County where children have been online and there has been child sexually abusive material transferred online,” said Matthew Wiese, Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney. “When your children leave the home, you want to know where they are and who they are with and what they are doing. It’s the same when they go on their devices. I encourage parents and anybody who’s responsible for children to know where they are going when they are on the internet.”

Wiese said the arrests sends a message to anyone who might think about participating in this kind of activity that law enforcement is watching.

Krieger says there is participation and membership in the task force with tribes including the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

“I would say the biggest hurdle in fighting human trafficking is indifference. I know we can talk about it’s hard to see and we’re isolated with our geographical border and we have so much land, but I really believe it’s the indifference to not do something. If we all just did one thing. If we all just spoke up and said something, came forward and said I want to do something. I think there’s something going on here. That’s what we want the public to do,” said Krieger.

If you suspect human trafficking and imminent danger, dial 911.

You can report information to the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or the Upper Peninsula Human Trafficking Task Force at 888-874-8123.

The task force is available online at upht123.org

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