2 arrested in Alpena in regional prostitution sting

ALPENA –A pair of men were arrested in April in Alpena for the solicitation of prostitution and using a computer to commit a crime. Their arrests were the result of widespread Michigan State Police sting that netted 35 total arrests in seven counties.

Richard Joseph Bennett, 64, and James Ivan Thompson were arrested in Alpena and are accused of trying to solicit prostitutes for sex. If convicted, each could serve as much as a year in jail.

Thompson’s age was not immediately available.

Bennett and Thompson were detained after being swept up by a multi-jurisdictional task force which was aimed at people using the internet to obtain the services of a prostitute. Their criminal cases in Alpena are ongoing, according to Alpena County Prosecutor’s Office.

Two men from Lewiston, in Montmorency County, were also arrested on the same charges, according to the State Police. The News is not publishing the names of those men because the status of their criminal cases were unknown.

The last arrest in the sting was made June 26, according the MSP news release issued Thursday.

MSP Seventh District Task Force Kip Belcher said that, during some of the 35 arrests, drugs were also found, as well as a firearm that was owned by a felon.

He said there were a total of nine initiatives where arrests were made.

Belcher said this was the first large-scale investigation of its kind to target people using computers to hire prostitutes. He said the operations were part of a larger effort to raise awareness and put an end to human trafficking in Northern Michigan.

Belcher said that, now that the first wave of arrests have been made, MSP will have a better handle on how pervasive the crime is in the area and help make more stings successful.

“We don’t have any historical data on how prevalent these types of activities are, but it will help us build a database,” Belcher said. “We are going to continue these types of operations and we will be able to get a better grip on how often this is being committed and by whom.”

Belcher said anyone wishing to report behavior they believe to be associated with human trafficking or prostitution should contact their nearby MSP office or any other police agency. Callers may remain anonymous.

Human trafficking has been a growing problem in Michigan and elsewhere. The National Human Trafficking Hotline received 962 calls reporting 305 cases of human trafficking in Michigan in 2017, compared to 255 calls reporting 69 cases in 2012.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or 989-358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.


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