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Schuette Files Human Trafficking Charges Against Organizers of "Detroit Pink" Prostitution RingContact: John Sellek or Joy Yearout 517-373-8060Agency: Attorney General
November 30, 2011
LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced that his office has arrested five residents of Southeast Michigan for conducting a human trafficking operation out of Southfield and Detroit. 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 (SEMCAC) Task Force that revealed human trafficking through a prostitution ring, called "Detroit Pink," involving at least one minor, as well as forced drug running across the country.
Today's arrests were part or a coordinated effort between the SEMCAC Task force, Southfield Police Department, Detroit Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Marshall Service. This is the second case charged by Schuette's new Human Trafficking Unit, created this year to put an increased focus on combating human trafficking in Michigan, a priority Schuette identified upon taking office. The unit works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to uncover and prosecute cases of modern-day slavery involving both children and adults.
"We will not turn a blind eye to the exploitation of women and children in our own backyard," said Schuette. "Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and it must come to an end."
It is alleged Mustafaa Muhammad, together with his now estranged wife, Tara Muhammad, launched a prostitution ring called "Detroit Pink" in 2006. The couple allegedly set up Detroit Pink as an online escort service with approximately two dozen prostitutes. It is alleged the prostitutes were photographed nearly naked and posted on various websites as available for "dates," usually for rates of $150 per half hour and $300 per hour.
According to witness statements the Detroit Pink website ceased operation sometime in approximately 2007. However, the Muhammads allegedly continued to run a prostitution ring by continuing to post the girls for prostitution individually. Anywhere from $50/date up to the entire fee of the date was collected by either Mustafaa or Tara.
Most significantly, a juvenile victim has been identified who reported working as a prostitute for Mustafaa when she was only 15-years old. It is alleged Mustafaa, Siebert and Jemison as posted ads, transported and collected the proceeds from the juvenile's dates, thus engaging in human trafficking of the minor.
Schuette alleges Mustafaa was aided in his efforts to sexually exploit women and at least one child through prostitution by Siebert, Jemison and Sherill.
In addition to the criminal charges for the prostitution ring, Mustafaa faces charges for allegedly forcing one woman to serves as a drug runner from Texas to Michigan against her will. It is alleged Mustafaa coordinated a scheme to distribute marijuana and ecstasy from the Southwest U.S. to sell in Detroit drug houses. One female human trafficking victim has come forward, indicating that Mustafaa, through violence and threats, allegedly forced her to travel to and from Texas transporting drugs for Mustafaa throughout the summer of 2011. This is the basis for one of the Human Trafficking charges against Mustafaa, and is the first case of labor trafficking charged by Schuette's office.
Schuette has filed the following charges against the five defendants in Southfield's 46th District Court:
All five defendants were arrested today and are expected to be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow in Southfield's 46th District Court.
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 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.
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