The inside story behind one of the largest law enforcement raids in Detroit history that shuttered a drug-riddled motel agents likened to a brothel.
Detroit — Federal agents are hunting for at least four men accused of participating in a criminal enterprise that allegedly drugged, tortured and forced women to have sex with customers at the Victory Inn motel.
The manhunt comes as court records and interviews offer an inside look at one of the largest federal raids in Detroit history at the motel Jan. 12. The investigation and raid rescued 14 women and uncovered a sophisticated criminal organization with a hierarchy, lookouts and a body count.
The alleged criminal enterprise includes at least one convicted killer and felons with weapons convictions who overtook the 42-room motel — leaving two rooms for legitimate customers, The Detroit News has learned.
As many as 20 women were forced to live in inhumane conditions and have sex with customers in motel rooms that cost $55 per night — or $35 for three hours.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Jeremy Forys, a Homeland Security Investigations special agent who helped plan the Victory Inn raid.
The raid along Michigan Avenue, east of Wyoming Avenue near the Dearborn border, came amid a continuing spike in human trafficking nationwide.
Almost 2,000 people were arrested nationwide by Homeland Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement last fiscal year. Those cases involved more than 400 victims.
Since 2010, there have been more than 7,000 arrests.
Last year, 246 human trafficking cases were reported in Michigan, a 257 percent increase from five years ago, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Victims were most likely to have been forced into sex trafficking at hotels and motels, the center said.
Law enforcement personnel from 20 agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Detroit, Dearborn and Taylor police departments, spent about three months investigating and preparing for the raid plus a dozen nights of undercover surveillance. Agents pulled blueprints from Detroit City Hall while planning the raid and interviewed suspected human trafficking victims.
The surveillance revealed an organized criminal enterprise had overtaken the motel and was pimping women and selling drugs, according to court records, testimony and interviews. The criminal enterprise included lookouts posted along Michigan Avenue — one outside a strip club and another near an adult bookstore — to warn colleagues at the motel about law enforcement, investigators said.
On Jan. 9, a federal magistrate judge approved a search warrant, concluding there was probable cause for Homeland Security Investigations to search 22 guest rooms, the lobby and offices.
The motel posed a unique challenge.
Instead of raiding one room or a single home, agents faced a two-story motel with more than three dozen rooms, numerous victims and suspects. Homeland Security Investigations wanted a force large enough to storm every guest room with at least four agents.
Homeland Security Investigations assigned six tactical teams to swarm the motel, almost 200 personnel, several K-9 officers and 100 tactical agents wearing body armor and carrying long guns or pistols and battering rams.
‘They kicked the door in’
At 6 a.m., agents started breaking down motel room doors.
On the west side of the motel, in room 203, investigators found convicted sex offender Bryant Daugherty, a woman and a black .38 Special revolver.
Daugherty, 45, an eight-time felon from Detroit, had to be pepper-sprayed during the arrest.
“Mr. Daugherty is almost an archetype of an armed career criminal,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerome Gorgon said during a court hearing. “His job — his career — has been a drug dealer.”
Daugherty was on the lower end of the enterprise’s hierarchy, Forys testified during a recent court hearing.
Daugherty’s defense lawyer Andrew Densemo accused investigators of wrongdoing during the raid.
“They kicked the door in the bathroom...the door fell on Mr. Daugherty,” Densemo said. “They put him in handcuffs and put him against the wall. Mr. Daugherty obviously is upset and as he’s leaning against the wall, he’s hitting his head against the wall. One officer looks at Mr. Daugherty and asks him ‘what the f’ are you doing? And then the officer takes Mr. Daugherty’s head and slams it against the wall. Then, reminiscent of a lot of things that I’ve seen all too recently, the officer says ‘oh, you’re resisting.’ So they pepper-sprayed Mr. Daugherty.”
Homeland Security Investigations officials will review the allegations, department spokesman Khaalid Walls said.
Two doors down from Daugherty’s room, on the second floor facing topless bar Club Venus, agents entered room 201 and found another felon, Michael Randol.
The window was open and agents watched Randol, 41, also an eight-time felon from Detroit, try to toss two packages to the street, according to court records.
One package cleared the window. The second package got stuck in the windowsill.
Agents searched both packages and found about $1,600 worth of crack cocaine, Forys wrote in a filing.
“Several of the human trafficking victims confirmed that members of the...criminal organization, including Randol, controlled, directed and participated in the prostitution and drug-distribution activities at the Victory Inn,” Forys wrote in a court filing.
Randol and Daugherty are facing criminal charges in federal court.
While agents were arresting Randol, another team was storming a nearby room.
The team included Fox, a Belgian Malinois K-9 officer from the Taylor Police Department. Fox’s handler was about to let the dog charge into the room when he looked at the motel room’s floor.
It was carpeted, wall to wall, with used hypodermic needles.
“There was an uncountable amount of needles throughout all the rooms,” Forys testified, while detailing signs of drug use throughout the motel. “Crack pipes, lottery tickets used to hold drugs, baggies...”
In another room, agents found five women forced to live together in a space that hadn’t been cleaned in what appeared to be years.
“It’s tragic, knowing victims were being forced to live there,” said a law enforcement official involved in the raid, who spoke to The Detroit News on condition of anonymity. “Something you would never want your family to stay in.”
The north side of Victory Inn backs up to Interstate 94, offering privacy for illicit activity, investigators said.
The undercover surveillance and raid focused heavily on those 18 rooms.
Agents found human trafficking victims in 14 rooms — six of which faced the interstate.
“The state of maltreatment that we discovered them in, almost all were so intoxicated on suspected narcotics that they couldn’t even be talked to for a long time,” Forys testified. “They were frigid and shaking.
“It took a long time for them to settle down,” Forys added.
Despite rescuing 14 women and making two arrests, agents didn’t find the leader of the alleged criminal enterprise.
Agents learned of a leader overseeing drugs and sex trafficking at Victory Inn after launching the investigation Sept. 16.
That’s when a suspected human trafficking victim was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital after ingesting heroin, court records show.
“The woman was pretty incoherent,” Forys testified during a court hearing.
The woman said she was transporting heroin for a man named “Tone,” and swallowed the drug after being stopped by law enforcement officers.
The woman said “Tone” was “a drug dealer and a pimp who (used) women to prostitute themselves under his control,” Forys wrote in a court filing.
“Tone” had as many as eight women working for him at the motel.
Agents didn’t know his real name, initially.
“He was like Keyser Söze,” a law enforcement official told The News, speaking on condition of anonymity and referring to the elusive villain from the 1995 film “The Usual Suspects.”
Investigators later identified “Tone” as a 48-year-old serial felon with 12 aliases whose rap sheet spans almost 30 years, including convictions for assault with a dangerous weapon, drugs and second-degree murder.
“Tone” has not been charged with a crime amid the ongoing manhunt.
On Oct. 3, agents interviewed the victim from Detroit Receiving Hospital again. She told investigators “Tone” provided prostitutes drugs “so they will continue to conduct commercial sex dates,” Forys wrote in a court filing.
“Tone” also repeatedly physically assaulted the victim. Another woman told investigators “Tone” made daily drug deliveries to the motel, usually before noon, and worked with a 50-year-old, six-time felon who sold crack and heroin at the motel “24/7,” according to court filings.
“He was the number 2, on-site leader of the organization,” Forys testified.
He lived in room 218, a second-floor room facing the interstate, with a woman questioned by police.
“She worked as a prostitute at the hotel and did so to pay back (the man) who sold her cocaine and heroin,” Forys wrote in a filing.
But during the raid, agents did not find the man in room 218. He is being sought by investigators along with three other men, including an 11-time felon accused of pimping women at the motel.
Detroit Police questioned the 11-time felon in November following a drug overdose in room 118, weeks before the raid. The man said he “sells girls” and could get “any girl you wanted,” according to court records.
Separately, a victim told investigators the man and a colleague had as many as 20 women working for them at the motel, Forys wrote in a court filing.
The two men allegedly sold cocaine, heroin and Xanax to an unnamed woman and her boyfriend in the past. On Dec. 26, the woman overdosed after buying drugs from someone in room 118 at Victory Inn, according to court records. Investigators found the woman’s body in another hotel, Best Value Inn, a mile away in Dearborn.
The overdose helped convince a Wayne County judge on Jan. 27 to shutter Victory Inn for one year after declaring the motel a public nuisance.
“The (raid) effectively ended a broad range of alleged criminal activity at the Victory Inn,” Steve Francis, acting special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement to The News. “The support following our action from the community has been overwhelming, which as a law enforcement community we are very grateful for.”
The criminal activity controlled by men being hunted by federal agents might have shifted from Victory Inn, however.
“I’m sure they’ve moved on to stay out of the eyes of law enforcement,” Forys testified.
Anyone with information about Victory Inn and the alleged criminal enterprise is urged to call Homeland Security Investigations at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.