Sheriff Brian BeGole announced the arrests of three men in Shiawassee County Thursday. They are accused of soliciting minors for sex.
The arrests are the result of a first of its kind sting operation in the County. Sheriff BeGole said his Office worked with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office GHOST team.
He wanted to learn more about the operation after he Sheriff Chris Swanson informed him many of their arrests over the last year or so were people from Shiawassee County.
“We want to send a message to the pedophiles out there, don’t come into Shiawassee County. Do not come here. We’re not open for business, don’t touch our children. As Sheriff and as a father, that’s important to me,” he said. “And, we’re going to continue those efforts to make sure that they’re not happening and if they are, that they get arrested.”
Sheriff BeGole said he met with the GHOST team about a month ago to start planning. They needed their expertise and help with resources, manpower, and technology.
It has been reported for a little over a year about GHOST’s stings, where the investigators place an ad on what they consider the dark web. Then, countless men have taken the bait, going so far as to meet up with what they think is a 13 to 15-year-old; and instead, they’re met with police.
In this specific operation, conducted Tuesday night, Sheriff BeGole explained 170 people chatted with officers online, but only four showed up.
Three men were arrested at the unnamed hotel where they conducted the sting. The fourth saw the officers there and ran.
Sheriff BeGole said investigators are working to catch him now.
The other three facing charges are a 32-year-old corrections officer from Elsie, an 18-year-old from Westphalia and a 45-year-old HVAC worker from Corunna.
When asked if they’ll continue these efforts, the Sheriff said they’re looking for funding. “It’s not just manpower and resources, it’s technology. And those technology that we’ve seen are expensive. And, Shiawassee County doesn’t have those funds,” Sheriff BeGole explained. “But, we hope to acquire it one way or another; and yes, I think it’s something important we want to continue.”
The men are not in custody as of Thursday night. The Sheriff said they were let go, pending further investigation.
Once they’re charged, their names and mugshots will be shared.
The Prosecutor said they’re finishing up the paperwork and expect the men will face a judge next week.
And, a reminder from the Sheriffs to parents — keep an eye on your child’s social media activity. If the platform allows connection and messaging, it could be dangerous.