Four people charged for their involvement in a Metro Detroit drug and human trafficking ring were given prison sentences that ranged from 19 months to 20 years on Tuesday, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced.
The group — Melvin Niblett, Corey Cooper, Maurice Rushton and Jasmin McGinnis — pleaded guilty last month to felony charges related to operations in Warren, Madison Heights and Southfield that authorities say involved selling drugs through offering sexual services.
“Opioid addiction is an ever-growing problem and many traffickers use it as a way to force their victims to remain captive,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement. “Today’s sentencing should serve as a warning to traffickers who get their victims hooked on drugs as a way to prey on them. We know the game being played, and I will take these dangerous individuals off the street.”
The suspects were identified through an investigation that launched in September 2016, when the joint FBI and Oakland County Gang and Violent Crimes task force received a tip about a suspected drug and prostitution ring in Madison Heights.
Niblett and Cooper allegedly were caught selling drugs in Warren and charged in a separate but related case by the Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith. Though they were released on bond, police soon learned Niblett had reportedly been using rooms at a Southfield hotel to head a drug and human trafficking operation.
That led the arrests of Cooper, Rushton and McGinnis last summer.
“Victims of sexual exploitation and drug addiction in Macomb and Oakland counties are safer today following the investigative work that resulted in the successful dismantlement of these defendants’ illicit criminal enterprise,” said David Gelios, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division, in a statement.
During sentencing on Tuesday in Oakland Circuit Court, Niblett was sentenced to between 78 months and 20 years in prison for one count of conspiracy to deliver 50-449 grams of cocaine and/or heroin as well as three counts of human trafficking - forced labor counts.
The other sentences by Judge Wendy Potts were:
■Cooper: 66 months - 20 years for one count of possession with intent to deliver less than 50 grams of heroin.
■ Rushton: 19 months to 10 years for one count of human trafficking – procuring person for forced labor.
■ McGinnis: 29 months - 20 years for one count each of conspiracy to deliver 50-449 grams of cocaine and/or heroin as well as human trafficking – procuring person for forced labor.
The four are prohibited from contacting co-defendants or victims, authorities said Tuesday.
“Justice has been served and these individuals who preyed on our community will now be held accountable for their criminal behavior,” Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said in a statement.