Macomb Township human trafficking suspect pleads guilty

Sentencing scheduled for May 16

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 12, 2019

 Michael Welch, of Macomb Township, plead guilty to four felony charges on April 11 – forced labor human trafficking, accepting earnings of a prostitute, using computers to commit a crime, and escape while awaiting trial for a felony.

Michael Welch, of Macomb Township, plead guilty to four felony charges on April 11 – forced labor human trafficking, accepting earnings of a prostitute, using computers to commit a crime, and escape while awaiting trial for a felony.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Co-defendant Misty George also appeared in court April 11. Her sentencing was adjourned until May 16. In November, she plead no contest to forced labor human trafficking.

Co-defendant Misty George also appeared in court April 11. Her sentencing was adjourned until May 16. In November, she plead no contest to forced labor human trafficking.

File photo by Deb Jacques

MOUNT CLEMENS — A human trafficking suspect plead guilty to four felony charges on April 11.

Michael Welch, of Macomb Township, plead guilty to forced labor human trafficking, accepting earnings of a prostitute, using computers to commit a crime, and escape while awaiting trial for a felony.

By pleading guilty, Welch waived his right to a jury trial, which was scheduled to begin June 18. His sentencing is set for May 16.

Forced labor human trafficking is punishable by up to 20 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections, as is accepting earnings of a prostitute and using computers to commit a crime. Escape while awaiting trial for a felony is punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Welch, 40, and Misty George, also 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.

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.

Welch said on April 11 that the victim is a friend of George and that he was approached by the victim about ways she could make money. According to police, the two were housing the 29-year-old woman with mental and physical impairments in a vacant shed.

On Feb. 26, attorney Michael Hennigan was appointed to represent Welch, who has been incarcerated at the Macomb County Jail since Oct. 3, 2017.

“The couple lived in the trailer and this gal was staying in the trailer with them,” Hennigan said. “At this particular night, they made her go out and sleep in a shed out back. She got cold and came back in. What they did was take her to an adjacent empty trailer where she stayed the rest of the night.”

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.

Welch told the court that he and George suggested to the victim that she could make extra money by advertising for services as a prostitute.

Macomb County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Bill Harding said there was “forcible, rough sex” on the first occassion.

“The victim has said she suffered serious physiological injury,” Harding said. “There’s no evidence to suggest that she suffered bodily injury.”

He added that on the second occasion, there was an appeal to the victim to engage in sex with the same man again.

Harding answered Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto, who asked if the victim was escorted.

Reading from the report, Harding said, “Ms. George escorted her to a vacant trailer where she met a “John” in this case. As the court recalls, she voluntarily went with Ms. George.”

The court agreed the victim was placed in greater danger while in the trailer than where she had been.

Welch indicated he assisted George by composing an advertisement that was placed on Craigslist.

Harding said Welch and George claimed the man they attempted to scam was “coming to get them,” and the victim testified in that instance that through psychological coercion, she agreed to have sex on the second occassion. Harding said the first occasion was consensual.

In regard to escape while awaiting trial for a felony, Welch said that on Oct. 3, 2017, while in front of the magistrate at 41-A District Court in Shelby Township, he became scared and blacked out.

He made it out of the courtroom to the parking lot before being captured after a brief chase.   

George also was in court for sentencing on April 11, but that was adjourned until May 16. In November, she plead no contest to forced labor human trafficking.