LANSING – Attorney General Bill Schuette today offered the following statement in support of January 11th being designated National Human Trafficking Awareness Day:
“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 the Great Lakes State,” said Schuette. “Every day, our citizens – many of them children – 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.
“These victims need a voice. That’s why I launched the first Attorney General Human Trafficking Unit. Already we have secured five convictions. Our first case involved a man nicknamed ‘Gruesome’ who truly lived up to the name. After forcing two teenagers into prostitution and abusing them physically and sexually, Sedrick Leman-Isaac Mitchell was arrested, brought to justice and sentenced to 35-60 years in prison. That was our first conviction, and with the continued efforts of the FBI, Michigan State Police, and local law enforcement agencies, we will find more just like him and put a stop to human trafficking in Michigan.”
Since its launch in 2011, Schuette’s Human Trafficking Unit secured five human trafficking convictions in the following cases, with more cases anticipated to be charged in the coming months:
• People v. Mitchell – Schuette arrested Sedrick Leman-Isaac Mitchell, 32, of Detroit, also known as “Gruesome” and “Roc,” for engaging in human trafficking and other crimes related to the enslavement two young girls who were forced to engage in prostitution on the streets of Detroit. The charges resulted from an investigation by Michigan State Police and the FBI through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force. Mitchell held captive one 14-year-old girl and one 15-year-old girl in a house on Detroit’s east side for approximately two months. The victims were forced to engage in prostitution and faced both physical and sexual assaults. Mitchell was convicted by a jury of his peers and is now serving his 35-60 year prison sentence.
• Detroit Pink Prostitution Ring – Schuette arrested five residents of Southeast Michigan for conducting a human trafficking operation through a prostitution ring, called “Detroit Pink”. Mustafaa Hassan Muhammad 31, of Detroit; Tara Muhammad 32, of Chesterfield Township; Brooklyn Marie Siebert, 29 of Warren; Rita Jean Jemison 25, of Detroit; and Jason Michael Sherrill, 31, of Detroit are each charged with multiple felonies including Human Trafficking, Pandering, Accepting the Earnings of a Prostitute and Racketeering. The charges result from an extensive investigation conducted by Michigan State Police and the FBI through the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force that revealed human trafficking involving at least one child, as well as forced drug running across the country. Tara Muhammad, Brooklyn Seibert, Rita Jemison and Jason Sherril each plead guilty to human trafficking and are each serving their sentences. The primary defendant, Mustafaa Muhammad, has been bound over to circuit court and is awaiting trial.
Schuette is one of ten attorneys general nationwide selected to lead the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative on Combating Human Trafficking, called Pillars of Hope. Schuette is working closely with his colleagues to craft a coordinated national strategy to combat human trafficking, including efforts to prosecute offenders, assist victims, analyze the impact of this crime and raise public awareness.
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.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.