TRAVERSE CITY — A prostitution bust that led to 12 local arrests proved a small piece of a multi-county Michigan State Police investigation that produced dozens of charges.
Troopers worked with additional northern Michigan law enforcement groups to carry out stings that led to the arrest of 35 people in seven counties — Grand Traverse, Alpena, Montmorency, Otsego, Emmet, Wexford and Roscommon Counties — through nine different operations, according to a state police press release.
Authorities made 12 of those arrests in Traverse City, according to the press release. Police reports show Traverse Narcotics Team detectives posted fake advertisements and posed as prostitutes, promoting they would be in the region. At least 10 of the 12 men responded to the advertisements and traveled to a Traverse City hotel April 12 and June 6 where they expected to meet up with the prostitutes. They left the hotel rooms under arrest.
According to the press release, arrests made in Traverse City include James Scott Johnson, 28; Matthew Douglas Hoyt, 52; Timothy Robert Cook, 58; Darryl James Paquette, 53; Jason John Beebe, 38; Clinton James Brian, 49; Christopher James West, 45; Matthew M. Bosma, 59; Kim Stuart Becker, 61; Irvin C. Pettit, 56; Evan Raheem Carew, 18; and Mark McDaniels, 56.
“I think the message is that our narcotics team and law enforcement in general are paying attention,” said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Bob Cooney.
Some, including attorney Jesse Williams, attorney representing Bosma, questioned the need for the TNT sting. Cooney said local law enforcement learned from the operation.
He said it appears prostitution cases are on the rise in the Grand Traverse County region. He based his statement on the recent and past TNT prostitution stings and the discovery that several men arrested admitted it was not their first time attempting to solicit a prostitute.
“That means that these hookups are going on and that’s all criminal activity that we did not know about,” Cooney said. “Mainly what we learned was this was not the first time for most of these johns and it means there is a significant amount of prostitution going on in our community.”
Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien reviewed TNT’s recent arrests and agreed prostitution is on the rise, though his officers have yet to record a prostitution-related arrest since at least 2015, according to police department statistics.
Prostitution crimes largely go unreported because the victim, the prostitute, in most cases is consenting to the sexual relations, he said. Smaller law enforcement departments typically look to the Michigan State Police to complete stings and take a more proactive approach.
“We don’t have the resources and the personnel to actively go after that,” O’Brien said.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department officials additionally report similar small numbers of prostitution cases, including five prostitution-related complaints since 2015, according to sheriff’s Lt. Brian Giddis. TNT officials are more equipped for and typically take those types of cases, he said.
TNT and Michigan State Police personnel did not immediately return calls requesting comment.
Such cases remain a concern to Cooney and other law enforcement officers. They often have ties to other criminal activity, like drugs, violence and human trafficking, Cooney said.
“It’s a concern,” he said. “I think we just need to keep on top of it.”