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Pair plead in relation to human trafficking

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 17, 2018






MACOMB TOWNSHIP — A Macomb Township couple who were arrested in 2017 recently plead in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Misty George, 32, Michael Welch, 40, 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.

Court records indicate that both pleas were accepted at a Nov. 27 trial by Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Michael Servitto.

The two were arrested in October 2017 for human trafficking after setting up dates online between men and a disabled woman living near their home.

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.

George’s sentencing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 24 at Circuit Court. A motion to reduce the couple’s bond was granted, and the amount was reduced to $1,000. Conditions of bond include no contact with the victim and random testing once a week.

Also on Nov. 27, Welch plead guilty to one count of escape while awaiting trial for a felony. His sentencing is set for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 10. Welch attempted to flee from police last October following a court hearing. He was captured after a brief chase.

“I felt it was a triable case and it was going to be a close case,” Welch’s attorney Steven Freers said. “The problem, quite frankly, was his girlfriend testifying against him didn’t help us. She was an admitted liar. The prosecutor put together a deal that we couldn’t refuse.”

Freers said the reasoning behind his client’s no contest pleas was, “We didn’t want any potential civil liability. For the escape, I didn’t have a defense. It was never our intention to dispute the escape charge.”

George’s attorney, Azhar Sheikh, said he was pleased with the outcome of the trial.

“We were hoping for exactly what happened, which turned out well,” he said.

“No contest is considered similar to a guilty plea,” Sheikh added.

Sheikh’s expectation of the January sentencing is that his client will walk free.

“She’s done more time than she would’ve under the guidelines,” he said.

George was incarcerated for more than a year. Welch faces a minimum term of 23 months in prison for the human trafficking charges and a minimum term of between 10 and 34 months for the escape charge.

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 white female with mental and physical disabilities in a vacant shed near the suspects’ home.

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

Freers expects Judge Servitto to rule a longer sentence on the escape charge.

“He’ll probably make it consecutive, but I don’t think it will be ridiculous,” he said.

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 initial reports of the case were exaggerated as to what they did to the young lady,” Freers said. “She was never locked in a shed or anything else.”

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

In late October 2017, the couple was ordered to undergo a mental evaluation before they stood trial. In January 2018, the two were found competent to face charges.

Three months later, in April, the alleged victim testified during a preliminary hearing. At that time, Sheikh said the victim testified that she and his client were “best friends forever” and the woman needed a place to stay, so she stayed with George and Welch in exchange for some money and food stamps up front and a monthly charge after that.

The woman alleged last fall that the couple forced her to live in the shed outside their trailer and forced her to have sex with men for money. Sheikh said the victim testified that George and Welch had set up dates and the woman was supposed to get some money from the exchange.

The first date was allegedly at the house of a man and the woman was supposed to get $60, and the second date was at a motel in Fraser and she was supposed to get $150.

In July, George testified against Welch in a preliminary exam.