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Eight Arrested in Grand Traverse County Child Sex Trafficking Operation

A two-day long sting operation in June led to eight arrests in Grand Traverse County, the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday morning.

It’s being dubbed as Operation “TC Safe” – a two-day undercover sting operation aimed at getting sexual predators off the streets.

“We were able to partner with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office “GHOST” Team and learn the techniques and procedures they have refined for combatting online child exploitation and human trafficking,” said Grand Traverse Sheriff Tom Bensley.

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson stood alongside Sheriff Bensley for the announcement. He says Genesee County has helped 42 Michigan counties in the last 18 months.

“This is not meant to scare, it’s meant to inform and educate,” said Swanson. “Predators have no boundaries. They have no boundaries of where they go, where they seek. Not a county, not a city, not even a state.”  He added, “there is no corner of this county or this state or this country where predators don’t work and Sheriffs can’t go after them.”

In this case, officers got online and used apps and chat rooms, quickly finding willing participants.

“The majority of our contacts are made on the apps that you know by name. TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat,” said Swanson.

“Officers posed as underage females and males in an undercover operation in an effort to identify and arrest persons who are interested in having sex with underage children,” explained Bensley. While eight men were arrested, the “chatters” or the decoys were talking with many more suspects. These eight are the ones that showed up. “Law enforcement did not initiate contact with any person. They contacted us. It was made clear to each suspect by undercover officers that our undercover decoys were minors under the age of 16.”

Investigators say most suspects have no criminal history, but making arrests prevents future victimization of children.

“Statistics show that for every child predator arrested, 25 future children will not be victimized. Operation “TC Safe” therefore saved 200 future victims,” said Bensley.

“You’re talking a global industry… 9 out of 10 of them, no matter where you do it, they have never had police involvement… now that they’re (been) identified and held accountable, it saves the lives of 25 future victims,” added Swanson.

This is the first sting operation of its kind for Grand Traverse County, but Bensley says it won’t be the last. “We will not be discussing the locations used during this operation, and/or specific methods used, to ensure the success of future operations.”

Arrested in Operation “TC SAFE” include:

  • Adam Thomas Altobello, 31, of Traverse City
  • Duane Michael Straubel, 66, of Traverse City
  • Joshua James Horrigan, 43, of Traverse City
  • Marvin Josue Guzman, 26, of Traverse City
  • Joseph Roland Urso, 28, of Lake City
  • Daniel Joseph Symons, 23, of Charlevoix (investigators say Symons was previously out on bond for a CSC investigation in Charlevoix County)
  • Jose Antonio De La Torre, 28, of Elk Rapids
  • Brenton Alan Evans, 37, pf Rapid City

All eight men are facing the charges such as child sexually abusive activity, a 20-year felony, solicitation of a minor for immoral purposes, a four-year felony and using a computer to commit a crime, a seven-year felony.

Ten different agencies partnered to assist in Operation “TC SAFE” including: The Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Office, Traverse City Police Department, Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office, Traverse Narcotics Team, Wexford County Sheriff’s Office, Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, Michigan State Police, and the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s Office.

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, please call 911, your county dispatch non-emergency line, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline, at 1-877-605-3424. You can also . 

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