7 men arrested in human trafficking investigation plead not guilty
The seven men were arrested in August following a human trafficking investigation in northern Menominee County have pleaded not guilty in court.
According to court documents, the men arrested were 58-year-old Paul Martin, 64-year-old Charles Burhans, 21-year-old Isaak Bogo, 44-year-old Michael Desrosier, 54-year-old Ricky Bissonnette, 47-year-old Kurt Sharkus, and 52-year-old Benjamin Marshall.
All seven men are charged with one count of Prostitution, Accosting and Soliciting, and one count of Computers, Communicating with Another to Commit a Crime. Those charges are both misdemeanors.
According to Menominee County Prosecutor, Jeffery Rogg, all seven defendants have pleaded not guilty and their cases are set for pretrial conferences in the next few weeks.
The Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team (UPSET), said law enforcement agencies initiated the operation by placing online advertisements on websites used for prostitution. During the investigation, 32 individuals responded to the website advertisements.
According to UPSET, the main purpose of the operation was to reduce the demand for sex trafficking and to identify possible victims by gathering intelligence from those responding to the online advertisements. The men responding have no way of knowing if they are paying for sex from a victim of human trafficking, an alleged willing participant, or an undercover detective. Either way, those responding to advertisements are creating the demand that fuels sex trafficking.