GENESEE COUNTY (WJRT) (10/14/19) - The Genesee County Sheriff's Office said it has made 11 more arrests as a part of its GHOST task force, which works to stop human trafficking in the county. The 12th person's case is still pending.
Sheriff Robert Pickell said this latest "dirty dozen" was netted as part of the undercover operation aimed at those targeting children. In total, the task force has arrested 47 men and one woman this year.
The latest dozen are all males between ages 20 to 56 who are charged with multiple felonies that could land each of them in prison for 20 years if they are convicted.
Those arrested over the past several weeks include:
- Ahmed Abioye, 20, college student.
- Robert Bailey, 30, pool cleaner.
- Julian Brigmon-Rodriguez, 28, construction.
- Donald Humpert, 56, painter.
- John Mandock, 53, unemployed.
- David Obrien, 28, mechanic.
- Thomas Ternan, 54, supervisor.
- Larry Starnes, 49, airport shuttle bus driver.
- Allan Tharp, 25, utility worker.
- John Thomas, 36, cable installer.
- Keenon Waters, 25, apartment maintenance worker.
Pickell said he includes the suspects' occupations to prove the people accused of committing these crimes could be anyone's neighbor.
The task force poses as teenagers online and Pickell said the suspects all took the bait. Authorities set up at a local hotel, where the men came allegedly seeking sexual activity but were arrested instead.
Pickell said the suspects brought various items to the hotel, including significant sums of money, alcohol and a 9 millimeter handgun.
He was most surprised that several of the suspects responded to online ads inquiring whether they were from the GHOST team, but still came to the hotel anyway.
The Sheriff explained, "In one instance, we had one of the people say - text - "Are you Pickell? Are you GHOST?"
Defense Attorney Nicholas Robinson is representing two of the accused. In a statement he said, "My clients have pled not guilty to these charges and look forward to taking advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate their innocence."
Pickell encouraged parents to pay close attention to what their children are doing online.
"Anything that appears to be a problem, give us a call here. We'll respect the anonymity and GHOST will work with families and parents to, you know, review some of the concerns they may have," he said. "And that's what we want to do. We want to save our children, we want to protect our children."