Child Sex Trafficking Sting Results in Three Local Arrests

At about 6:00 pm on Monday, August 16, Chippewa County Sheriff Mike Bitnar held a Facebook Live video conference, assisted by Sault Ste Marie Police Chief Wes Bierling and Sault Tribe Police Chief Robert Marchand, to announce the arrest of three men on Friday, August 13, as the result of a human trafficking sting operation conducted in Chippewa County.

Sheriff Bitnar reported that he had recruited the services of Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson’s GHOST (Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team) to crack down on human trafficking taking place in Chippewa County.  The operation lasted merely one day with the arrest of three adult males each being charged with several crimes.

The operation with each individual was essentially the same where a conversation was started in an online chat room with the police posing as a minor boy or girl.  The chat turned to sex talk and different sex acts.  Arrangements were made to meet at a local motel where the subject expected to meet the minor and have sexual relations, but instead was met by big, burly men with handcuffs and hauled off to jail.

Arrested in the sting operation were:

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN SIMPKIN, age 41, a food service worker from Sault Ste Marie.  Simpkin was expecting to meet a 15-year-old girl. He was charged with (1) Aggravated Distributing or Promoting Sexually Abusive Activity with a Child, (2) Computer/Internet Used for Harassment Threats, (3) Sex Offense – Other

MICAH HENRY RICKERD, age 23, a university student in Sault Ste Marie.  Rickerd was expecting to meet a 14-year-old boy. Rickerd was charged with (1) Aggravated Distributing or Promoting Sexually Abusive Activity with a Child, (2) Computer/Internet Used for Harassment Threats, (3) Sex Offense – Other

AARON JAMES NOWICKI, age 37, a non-practicing Catholic Priest living in Sault Ste Marie was expecting to meet a 15-year-old boy. Nowicki was also charged with (1) Aggravated Distributing or Promoting Sexually Abusive Activity with a Child, (2) Computer/Internet Used for Harassment Threats, (3) Sex Offense – Other.

Sheriff Bitnar expressly thanked Sheriff Swanson for the use of his GHOST team.  He also had some advice for parents.  “I want to remind parent to be vigilant with their children. Know what they’re doing on their phone, on their computers, on their tablets.” Bitnar added, “All this went down on the internet, in chat rooms. So you have to be vigilant.”

Sheriff Bitnar finished with a warning, “Lastly, we want to give a message out to those who are having sex with children or searching the Internet to locate our children – We Are Coming After You!”

Mark Krupiarz

Mark is the Publisher and Editor of EUP News. He acquired the site in March of 2013 and has grown it into the largest source of news in the eastern Upper Peninsula. Mark has a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from Lake Superior State University and a Master's Degree in Social Marketing from the University of Phoenix. Mark enjoys photography, fishing and riding ATVs.

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