MARQUETTE - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is taking on human trafficking, an issue he said many people don't realize could be happening in their own backyards.
"As a husband, as a father, as attorney general, as a citizen, it turns your stomach that there could somebody's daughter in the state of Michigan being used, bartered, trafficked and sold into sex slavery," Schuette said.
Schuette stopped in Marquette to hold a forum on the issue with local, state and public officials.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette talks with local, state and federal representatives about possible propane price gouging and human trafficking Tuesday at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese attended the event, speaking about a recent case in which a Marquette man was arrested and charged with human trafficking, recruiting a minor for child sexually abusive activity, a 20-year felony.
The charge stems from allegations that Aaron Max Wesolek, 24, met a 14-year-old girl on the Internet and took her to Marquette from her home and then allegedly sexually assaulted her at his residence.
"We wanted to get the attention of people locally," Wiese said. "That type of crime, which has been going on forever, technically fits as a human trafficking crime."
Denise Pallarito, special assistant to U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, said a 12-bill package making it easier to prosecute traffickers and re-framing the victims of trafficking as victims and not criminals had successfully navigated through the House of Representatives.
"As overwhelmingly bipartisan as it as in the House, we hope it will be in the Senate," Pallarito said.
Schuette said one of the biggest goals is finding ways to provide more and better help to victims.
"We need to have a place of refuge for these victims, where they can have a place of renewal, a place of hope, a place to get their feet on the ground," Schuette said.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.