A Macomb Township couple was found competent to stand trial on charges of human trafficking.

A Macomb Township couple was found competent to stand trial on charges of human trafficking.

File photo by Joshua Gordon


Human trafficking suspects found competent to face charges

Independent evaluation to take place for one defendant

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 29, 2018

 George

George

 Welch

Welch

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Two Macomb Township residents accused of human trafficking have been found competent to face charges in the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township.

Misty George, 30, and Michael Welch, 38, allegedly kept a 29-year-old woman with mental and physical disabilities in a shed near their home off 21 Mile Road in Macomb Township. According to the charges, the couple allegedly set up dates online with men who paid money for sexual services from the victim.

George and Welch’s court-appointed attorneys, Azhar Sheikh and Steven Freers, respectively, asked Judge Douglas Shepherd in October to allow their clients to undergo a psychiatric exam. After a Jan. 8 hearing with Shepherd, Freers said both defendants were found competent.

The exam was to determine if the two were competent to stand trial, and if they are culpable of the crimes of which they are accused.

George was charged with human trafficking forced labor, using a computer to commit a felony and accepting earnings for prostitution. Welch was charged with human trafficking forced labor and accepting earnings for prostitution.

At the Jan. 8 hearing, Sheikh asked the judge for George to seek an independent evaluation before moving forward and it was granted. Freers said he and Welch decided not to take that route.

“After reviewing the report, and talking with my client, we decided we did not want to do an independent evaluation,” Freers said.

Freers had asked Shepherd to reduce Welch’s bond to something he could make, requesting 10 percent of the $100,000 bond. Shepherd declined the motion, Freer said.

With George getting the independent evaluation, Freers said Welch will also have to wait for a preliminary exam as Shepherd did not want to do two exams as the two are co-defendants. The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 26, and Freers said the hope is George’s evaluation is complete by then.

In September, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous complaint regarding human trafficking in the Westbridge Manor mobile home park across from Dakota High School.

According to police, the victim was allowed to stay in George and Welch’s home before she was moved to the shed for not being able to afford rent. The victim was not allowed to use the restroom or shower inside, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The victim’s family discovered what happened after she left the mobile home park and the family contacted police. The investigation was headed up by the Macomb Area Computer Enforcement unit.

After the arraignment, Welch attempted to escape while entering the sheriff deputy’s vehicle. He was captured after a brief chase and returned to Macomb County Jail.

Sheikh and Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Jeffrey Hall did not return a request for comment by press time.