GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Tyrone Smith, 45-years-old, of Lansing, Michigan, pled guilty on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015, in federal court to three counts of sex trafficking girls and women and transporting them across state lines for prostitution.
He will be sentenced in April 2016 and faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in federal prison, up to a maximum of 25 years.
After serving 15 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections for second degree murder, Smith began recruiting women in Lansing for his interstate commercial sex operation. A federal grand jury indicted him in July 2015 on seven counts involving four victims, including one minor. The indictment charged Smith with three counts of sex trafficking by force, threats of force, fraud, and coercion; one count of sex trafficking a minor; and three counts of transporting adult women and the minor from Michigan to Illinois for commercial sex.
In a written plea agreement, Smith admitted to recruiting the first victim, an adult woman, in about December 2012, providing her with heroin, posting commercial sex ads of her online in lingerie, and arranging for johns to pay for sex with her in Lansing, Chicago, and elsewhere over a two-year period. Smith admitted to being physically violent and threatening towards her throughout this time, knowing that this would cause her to continue to engage in commercial sex acts.
Smith also admitted to recruiting a 17-year-old girl and sex trafficking her from December 2014 to June 2015. He arranged for johns to buy sex from her in his Lansing residence and area motels, and he took her to Chicago for several weeks in early 2015. The minor watched Smith assault another woman for her disloyalty to Smith’s prostitution business, and Smith continued to cause the minor to engage in commercial sex acts after that. In June 2015, while Smith and the minor were in a Lansing motel, Smith grabbed her by the neck and threw her on the bed to stop her from leaving with the cell phone he gave her, which had a large amount of information on it about his prostitution business. The minor sought medical attention afterwards for a concussion, a laceration on the bridge of her nose, and bruising on her face and body. Smith admitted that a short time later, he reconnected with the minor and continued arranging commercial sex dates for her.
The conviction resulted from a joint investigation led by the FBI, Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and East Lansing Police Department, with assistance from the Michigan State Police (MSP). Assistant United States Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller prosecuted the case.
This is the third federal sex trafficking conviction in the Western District of Michigan, following cases against Eddie Jackson and Christopher Bryant. This is the fourth sex trafficking conviction obtained in the past year as a result of the FBI’s joint investigation with the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office and other Lansing area law enforcement partners, who collaborated in the federal Christopher Bryant trial and the related state convictions of Jonathan Purnell and Mariah Haughton in Ingham County.
In announcing the conviction, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles stated, “Sex trafficking is real and happens in West Michigan. Traffickers target victims by identifying vulnerabilities to exploit, whether through drugs, money, violence, or a false sense of security and affection provided by the trafficker. My office is working hand-in-hand with federal, state, and local law enforcement to identify and prosecute human trafficking, including the sex trafficking of children.”
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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.