MACOMB TOWNSHIP, MICH. - She was housed in a vacant shed and sold for sex online.
Somehow, the 29-year-old with mental and physical disabilities left the Macomb Township couple who kept her in the outside shed, taking her support money and selling her services through online ads.
Today, the couple faced a judge on human trafficking charges.
“Instead of helping this profoundly special-needs person, (they) took her support money, forced her to live rough in an outside shed, and sold her as a prostitute. As your heart breaks for this vulnerable woman, your conscience is shocked by the abusive cruelty one human being is capable of showing to another," Prosecutor Eric Smith said.
“The Sheriff and the Prosecutor’s Office are resolved to bring some measure of justice to this young woman, and to get her the support and treatment she needs.”
Misty George, 30, and Michael Welch, 38, were arraigned in 41-A District Court in Shelby Township, each charged with human trafficking-forced labor and prostitution/accepting earnings. George also was charged with using a computer to commit a crime, the sheriff's office said.
Welch is expected to face more charges after he tried to escape as he entered a sheriff's transport vehicle. He was arrested after a brief foot chase, the sheriff's office said.
The alleged crimes occurred at the Westbridge Manor mobile home park near 21 Mile and Heydenreich in Macomb Township.
Welch and George, who live together and are believed to be dating, initially allowed the woman to stay in their home. But she was eventually moved to a nearby shed after she could not afford to pay the rent that the suspects' demanded, the sheriff's office said.
The victim wasn't allowed in the home to use the restroom or shower.
The suspects set up date advertisements for the victim through a website, according to the sheriff's office. Several men responded to the ads and paid money to the couple for sexual services from the victim.
When the victim left the mobile home park, her family members found out what happened and contacted authorities Sept. 12.
It's unclear how the woman met the couple, or how long she was in the shed.
"This whole incident spanned over a couple-month period," including the time she was staying in the home, said Macomb County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Renee Yax said.
The Macomb Area Computer Enforcement unit investigated, interviewing multiple people.
George was ordered held on a $75,000 bond during arraignment today. Welch was ordered held on a $50,000 bond. Both are to return to court Oct. 24.
Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said human trafficking can happen anywhere, with women and children, particularly those in abusive or poverty situations, the most targeted.
He urged people to be wary of opportunities that seem too good to be true, and to always remain aware of their surroundings.
“Parents are urged to monitor their children’s social media accounts and look into those people who associate with your children," he said.
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