WB police investigation helps lead to life sentence for convicted sex trafficker

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 2, 2023

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — According to a press release dated Jan. 24, a Detroit man who photographed his sexual assaults of a young child and forced an adult to engage in prostitution was sentenced to life in prison, according to U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison.

The case was investigated by the West Bloomfield Township Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations, and it was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Woodward and Andrea Hutting, according to the release.

Ryon Travis, 39, was convicted of production of child pornography and sex trafficking after a jury trial in July 2022.

Travis was sentenced Jan. 24 by U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

Police began investigating Travis in connection with identity theft. When detectives searched Travis’ cellphone for evidence of fraud, they found explicit photographs of child sexual abuse depicting the rape of a young child.

When law enforcement returned to Travis’ home a second time to gather additional evidence related to child pornography, they found an adult woman chained at the neck to a pole in the living room, the release states.

Investigators learned that multiple women lived in Travis’ home, and he considered all of them his “wives,” according to the release.

Travis arranged commercial sex dates for all of the women, and when one of the women tried to leave, Travis forced her to continue engaging in prostitution by placing a chain around her neck, the release states.

According to West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton, in 2016, a resident in West Bloomfield reported an illegal use of a credit card, and Travis was identified as a possible suspect.

A follow-up investigation eventually led to the West Bloomfield Police Department executing a search warrant at Travis’ residence in Detroit.

“When we went inside of there, we were concerned about some of the things we saw,” Patton said. “We’re looking for evidence to further our criminal investigation of this credit card fraud that was being allegedly perpetuated at the time, but saw some concerns. There were multiple occupants — children. There was some reporting of, like, a stripper-dancer pole inside the residence there.”

One of the items seized was Travis’ phone.

“We found some disturbing pictures that looked like … child pornography,” Patton said. “At least they were some relatively graphic depictions of children engaged in sex acts with, apparently, other adults. Out of concern that there were multiple children in that home or affiliated with that home, we started conducting investigations into whether there’s any possible child abuse or neglect. … We started partnering up with … the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.”

Patton said that West Bloomfield partnered with federal authorities, and ultimately, Homeland Security Investigations took over.

“(I’m) grateful to the detectives and the officers that were working at the time that they … perceived that there might have been people being exploited and/or at risk — (adults) and children in the residence,” Patton said. “Looking at the comments that federal judge Bernard Friedman made during his sentencing, I would say they’re all very appropriate, that a very dangerous, predatory, exploitative person has been taken off the streets in southeast Michigan. That’s good for a lot of people, individually, and all of us, collectively. … Glad that we did what we could to further facilitate that, so, well done, West Bloomfield, well done all law enforcement, including our federal partners.”

From Ison’s perspective, the length of Travis’ sentence was appropriate.

“Child sexual abuse leaves an indelible mark on victims. The documentation of the abuse makes this crime even more egregious,” Ison stated via the release. “This defendant also forced an adult woman to engage in prostitution by physically restraining her with a chain. The public needs to be protected from Ryon Travis, and this lengthy sentence helps to do just that.”

Angie M. Salazar, who is the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, also shared some thoughts about the sentencing.

“Predators like Travis tear at the very foundation of our communities, not only victimizing children but subjecting multiple women to sex trafficking,” Salazar stated via the release. “It is my hope that this sentence brings some measure of peace to the survivors, knowing that he will remain behind bars.”

An attorney for Travis could not be reached for comment by press time.