The victim of an alleged human trafficking incident last year in Macomb Township testified in court on March 26.

The victim of an alleged human trafficking incident last year in Macomb Township testified in court on March 26.

File photo by Joshua Gordon

Victim testifies in Macomb Township human trafficking case

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 3, 2018

 Michael Welch

Michael Welch

 Misty George

Misty George

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The case involving two Macomb Township residents accused of human trafficking continued recently after the alleged victim testified during a preliminary hearing.

Misty George, 30, and Michael Welch, 38, appeared in front of Judge Douglas Shepherd March 26 at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township. The two are accused of keeping a 29-year-old woman with mental and physical disabilities in a shed near their home off of 21 Mile Road in Macomb Township.

According to the charges, the couple allegedly set up dates online with men who paid money for sexual services with the woman.

George’s attorney, Azhar Sheikh, said the victim testified during the hearing that her 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 one was allegedly at the house of a man and the woman was supposed to get $60, and the second was at a motel in Fraser and she was supposed to get $150. Sheikh said the woman testified she didn’t receive the money and so she left.

“Whatever she did, she did it on her own and was not forced,” Sheikh said. “Our position is that they had an agreement and she didn’t get her money from the last date and felt she was ripped off. So it snowballed from there.”

As for being forced to sleep in the shed, Sheikh said the woman testified she never spent an entire night in the shed and instead was allowed to use a vacant mobile home George and Welch had previously owned in the area.

The woman then told her cousin and friend about what happened and they called the police in September. The Macomb County Sheriff’s Office investigated the home in the Westbridge Manor mobile home park across from Dakota High School and arrested George and Welch.

George is charged with human trafficking forced labor, using a computer to commit a felony and accepting earnings for prostitution. Welch is charged with human trafficking forced labor and accepting earnings for prostitution.

At the arraignment, Welch attempted to escape while entering a Sheriff deputy’s vehicle. He was captured after a brief chase and returned to Macomb County Jail. Welch’s attorney, Steven Freers asked Shepherd in January to reduce his bond from $100,000 to something he could make, but the motion was denied.

Both George and Welch underwent psychiatric exams in late 2017 and both were found competent to stand trial and culpable of the crimes of which they are accused.

The next court date is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. April 30, at which time police and another witnesses are expected to testify for the prosecution. Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Bill Harding did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Freers said, at this point, he feels good about the case and that the allegations made to the police are not as bad as they first seemed.

“What I took away was that there is nothing showing my client did anything wrong and this situation was not as bad as it had been represented,” Freers said. “She was not locked in a shed, she was free to come and go and she only was involved in two sex acts, neither of which my client was involved in.”