Fundraiser will help local organization fight human trafficking. 

August 28, 2022

Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast with Sherry Motcheck of Forward.

Fundraiser will help local organization fight human trafficking. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

WEARE TOWNSHIP — Forward Human Trafficking Task Force held a Fundraiser BBQ Saturday, Aug. 27 at Up North Farm Market, 3890 Monroe Road. The purpose of the event was to raise funds for the group to bring awareness to local schools about human tracking. The group has lined up assemblies at several schools in Mason and Oceana counties. 

Oceana County Sheriff Craig Mast spoke about human trafficking that is occurring locally. He talked about the case of Lewis Stone, a 65-year-old man from Hart, who was sentenced in February of this year on the felony charge of accosting a child for immoral purposes. 

Stone was arrested on Aug. 25, 2021 at the Dunes Express Inn in Hart Township where Oceana County and Genesee County sheriff’s offices were running a joint sting operation. Mast talked about how an officer posed as a 15-year-old girl on a dating site. Mast said several dozen people responded to the “girl’s” post but Stone showed up at the hotel (the management of the hotel was aware of the sting). Stone expressed he was interested in performing oral sex on the female when she was contacted by him. according to court records. 

Stone was sentenced to one year in jail. Mast said he had hoped the Oceana County Prosecutor’s Office would have sought a harsher sentence. 

Mast used the case as an example that human trafficking can occur anywhere, even in small towns in rural west Michigan. 

Forward Human Trafficking Task Force is still in need of funds. To learn more visit its website here or go to Facebook.


Editor’s Note: Oceana County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Bizon responded to this article by stating that the reason Stone’s sentence was considered “light” was that the initial advertisement gave the impression that Stone was meeting with a person who was 18-years-old. “When he was told the subject was less than 18 he attempted to back out but was cajoled into proceeding to the hotel by the detective (who was from Genesee County Sheriff’s Office),” Bizon said. 

“After his arrest while waiting for a hearing in jail the Genesee detective was repeatedly ‘unavailable’ for hearings that a criminal defendant is constitutionally entitled to,” Bizon said. “Had he not pled he would have been entitled to a dismissal of charges.

“Mr. Stone had rather old (almost 10 years old) convictions for crimes involving marijuana.  Conduct that today would not even be chargeable.  But with that record his guidelines scored 2-17 months.  As a matter of law he would have been entitled to a presumption of 2 months jail and probation.  Instead against all these problems we worked out a sentence for almost a year in jail.

“Despite private and semi-public statements made by police officers assertions that there are other victims of Mr Stone have not materialized in the almost 2 years since his arrest.  

“Mr. Stone did something wrong and he paid a significant penalty that is consistent with but on the heavy side of lawful consequences available in such a case.  Implications to the contrary are not consistent with the facts, Michigan Law or constitutional principles.”

This is being added as a note to the article at the request of the prosecutor. However, the article’s purpose is to promote an organization that exists to protect the children of the community from those who wish to exploit them and do harm — a topic that should not be overshadowed by a person who clearly had intentions that were questionable morally and legally.


 

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