Madison Heights police lead human trafficking bust

Two suspects in custody, police search for third

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 19, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — An investigation started by the Madison Heights Police Department has resulted in charges against two people suspected of running a human trafficking operation that spanned Oakland County and the metro Detroit area.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald made the announcement about the bust at a conference Feb. 9. She was accompanied by Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines, and Marc Keast, the chief of Oakland County’s dedicated human trafficking unit.  

“These crimes occurred at the hotels,” Haines said. “We are continuing to work with the hotel management (in Madison Heights), and utilizing the ordinance placed into effect by City Council regarding hotels and motels.”

Seven felony charges have been issued against Lavonte Sampson, of Harper Woods, and Chrystal Forgays, of Warren. The charges include one count of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity, one count of conducting a criminal enterprise, two counts of transportation of another person for the purpose of prostitution, one count of accepting earnings from prostitution, one count of human trafficking enterprise, and one count of computer crime.

Sampson and Forgays were apprehended by officers of the Detroit Police Department and then transferred into the custody of Madison Heights police. The case had been initiated by the Madison Heights Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) following a tip.

The suspects were arraigned in Madison Heights 43rd District Court Feb. 1. Sampson was issued a $300,000 cash bond, conditioned on no contact with victims, witnesses or co-defendants, and a GPS monitoring tether. Forgays was issued a $250,000 cash bond on the same conditions.

A third suspect, Carl Lorenzo Perkins, is currently sought by the Madison Heights police in connection with the case. He is described as a Black man, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 160 pounds, last seen in Detroit. Those who may have information on his whereabouts are asked to call the Madison Heights Police Department at (248) 585-2100.

“The ongoing search for the suspect will continue until he is in custody,” Haines said. “We are hoping that the public can assist us with locating the suspect.”

The arrests so far are the culmination of a monthslong investigation done in collaboration between the Madison Heights Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the offices of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

“These crimes are very serious crimes,” Haines said. “These suspects forced victims, in this case minors, into the sex trade. The victims can have lifelong issues related to these types of crimes. They exploit these victims when they are at one of the most vulnerable times of their life.”

McDonald said these crimes aren’t limited to a particular place.

“I know that many people … think of women held against their will in a rundown neighborhood or some foreign country. Let me be quite clear that that image is not accurate. This crime is happening right here in Oakland County. These are cases in which we have teenage women — no, teenage girls — being trafficked into prostitution — children exploited in the worst way imaginable by adults who trade their bodies for cash.”

She noted that Michigan ranks among the states with the highest incidence of human trafficking cases, and that the COVID-19 pandemic may have increased the occurrence of trafficking.

Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis said he is proud of the detectives involved.

“Our SIU has come through again, as they have numerous times for the residents of Madison Heights,” Soltis said in an email. “To me, reinstating the SIU was one of the best decisions our council has made. … All of our police officers, from the SIU to patrol to detectives and police leadership, are the unsung heroes of our community. Our police need our community’s support more than ever.”

If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or text “HELP” to 233733.

“The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office is here to help you, not incarcerate you,” McDonald said. “And to every man or woman who is currently engaged in sex trafficking, or considering engaging in this crime, know that we will find you, and we will ensure you face justice.”

Pamela Johnson, the attorney for Sampson, could not be reached for comment at press time.

Steven Lynch, the attorney for Forgays, said, “We should be hesitant to jump to conclusions. There are two sides to every story. This matter is just getting starting, and I’m still in the process of reviewing all of the documents. Ultimately, a jury will most likely have to decide the issue.”

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