June trial set for human trafficking suspect

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 4, 2019

 In a Feb. 28 pretrial conference, it was determined that Michael Welch’s criminal case will go to trial June 18. Welch is seen here Jan. 24.

In a Feb. 28 pretrial conference, it was determined that Michael Welch’s criminal case will go to trial June 18. Welch is seen here Jan. 24.

File photo by Deb Jacques

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The trial for Michael Welch originally was scheduled to begin this month. Now, it will be pushed back until June.  

In a Feb. 28 pretrial conference in the courtroom of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto, the case was scheduled to go to trial June 18.

Welch, 40, and Misty George, 32, of Macomb Township, were arrested in October 2017 for human trafficking after allegedly setting up dates online between men and a disabled woman living near their home.

On Feb. 26, attorney Michael Hennigan was appointed to represent Welch.

Welch’s former attorney, Steven Freers, was removed from the case at Welch’s request Feb. 21.

Since Hennigan is newly appointed, Servitto allowed Hennigan a couple of weeks to further assess the case.

Welch is due back in court March 18 for another pretrial conference. 

Welch faces three felony charges, including forced labor human trafficking, accepting earnings for prostitution, and using computers to commit a crime.

Prior to being appointed, Hennigan said, he was not familiar with Welch’s case. 

“My approach is to give him the best defense and advice I possibly can,” Hennigan said outside the courthouse. 

He had only spoken with Welch once, shortly before the pretrial conference. 

“He was very reasonable and patient,” Hennigan said. 

From now until the trial begins, Hennigan plans to familiarize himself with the case and create a plan for the trial.   

In January, Servitto set Welch’s trial for March 19. 

In 2017, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous complaint a month prior to the arrest regarding human trafficking occurring in the Westbridge Manor mobile home park near 21 Mile and Heydenreich roads.

According to police, the two were housing a 29-year-old woman with mental and physical impairments in a vacant shed near the suspects’ home.

After removing the 29-year-old woman from their home, police allege George and Welch then set up dating advertisements for the woman online, and several men responded and paid money to the two for sexual services from the woman.

In November, George and Welch pleaded no contest to one count of forced labor human trafficking, one count of using computers to commit a crime, and one count of prostitution/accepting earnings. In January, Servitto did not accept Welch’s plea and it was withdrawn. George is scheduled for sentencing March 21.

Using computers to commit a crime is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison. Accepting earnings of a person engaged in prostitution is a felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The Sheriff’s Office believes George and Welch were in a dating relationship while living together.

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