Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 26, 2016
Three Co-Defendants Plead Guilty To Sex Trafficking Minors In Grand Rapids, Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – All three co-defendants in a West Michigan child sex trafficking case pled guilty today in federal court. Anthony Wilson-Lackey (22) and Shyron Smith (22), both of Grand Rapids, and Stephanie Martin (24) of Holland, Michigan, pled guilty to conspiring to sex traffic two minors in Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan, in September and October 2014. Wilson-Lackey recruited the minors, who were 15 and 16 years old, and provided them to paying customers for commercial sex in motels around Grand Rapids and an apartment complex in Holland, Michigan. Martin rented hotel rooms and helped post online advertisements promoting the minors for commercial sex. Smith conspired with Wilson-Lackey to split the profits, and he drove the minors to the motels and to Holland to meet johns. All three co-defendants admitted that they knew the minors were only 15 and 16 years old.
Over the past 18 months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan has successfully prosecuted six defendants for child sex trafficking, including the three in this case. The sentencing hearings will be held on a date to be determined, in the summer of 2016. Martin and Smith face up to five years in prison and Wilson-Lackey faces up to life in prison.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles stated, “Sadly, sex trafficking happens everywhere in the country, even right here in West Michigan. Traffickers often target minors who are lured by the promise of money, independence, and sometimes friendship, love, drugs, or violence, into selling their bodies. The growing number of sex trafficking investigations and prosecutions represent law enforcement’s increasing focus on finding and prosecuting those who prey on the vulnerable youth in our community.”
“No longer can we say these crimes don’t happen in ‘my neighborhood,’” said David P Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division. “The sexual exploitation of minors, which routinely involves trafficking teenage girls, is repulsive and all too common. The FBI’s collective effort with our Law Enforcement partners to eliminate the ability of traffickers to victimize our children is time and resources well spent. Little can be more important than that.”
The Grand Rapids Police Department, Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and the West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX) collaboratively conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office; county prosecutor’s offices; and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement.