Human trafficking operation busted by Madison Heights SIU

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 21, 2019

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Last fall, the Madison Heights City Council voted to reinstate the city’s Special Investigations Unit. Since then, the undercover cops have been busy saving lives, with the recent rescue of a human trafficking victim, and the arrest of the man they believe is responsible.

James Yun, 36, was arrested Feb. 12 at the Days Inn Hotel located at 1331 W. 13 Mile Road in Madison Heights. He was arraigned Feb. 15 in Madison Heights 43rd District Court on a count of prostitution/accepting earnings, a 20-year felony; prostitution/transporting person, a 20-year felony; human trafficking forced labor, a 10-year felony; and keeping a house of prostitution, a five-year felony. His bond was set at $250,000 cash/surety, and he must surrender all passports, stay within the state, wear a GPS tether, and avoid contact with the victim.

The victim in this case is a 33-year-old citizen of China who is currently in the United States on a visa. No further information will be released about the victim.

Yun’s attorney, Randall Lewis, did not return calls for comment by press time.  

“This is exactly the kind of stuff we were looking to tackle with our SIU, in regards to hotels,” said Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines. “The SIU used many resources working together with our member on the FBI task force, and our officers in the detective bureau and on road patrol. The way they investigated it, they were able to rescue the victim and get the information they needed through a search warrant to trace it back to the person who was collecting the money, and who had put this particular victim into the (human trafficking) trade in the first place.”

The chief said that the SIU’s primary goal has been to clean up the city’s hotels and motels. Last summer, Haines said that in the past two years, police in Madison Heights had responded to nearly 860 calls for service at just three of the city’s 11 hotels and motels. Drugs, prostitution and human trafficking have been a recurring concern. Some cases even involved minors. 

Earlier in 2018, City Councilman David Soltis reached out to executives of local hotel chains, asking them to put pressure on their franchisees to better police themselves. Then in the fall, he and the rest of the council adopted an ordinance that allows the city to penalize high-crime hotels and motels, providing extra incentive to comply. And then at its meeting Oct. 8, the council approved the return of the SIU, missing in action since 2010, when it had been cut as a cost-saving measure during the Great Recession. 

Savings from the gun range renovation project at the Madison Heights Police Department helped fund the creation of the new SIU, which was formed with existing staff, including an officer who had been assigned to the Troy SIU, and a new officer who was hired in the current fiscal year. 

“I applaud Chief Haines and the whole Police Department, and especially the SIU for a job well-done,” Soltis said. “This goes to show that the SIU is a critical component in fighting human trafficking and other crimes in our hotels. We’re now in the process of taking back our city, one hotel at a time.

“However, there is still the issue of providing proper services and help for the victims,” he said. “I think we need to now focus our efforts on getting the victims the help that they need, so that they don’t end up back in the same situation. I think we need to come together and figure out strategies that will prevent new people from being enticed or forced into the trade.”

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