Schuette: Four Charged in Oakland and Macomb Counties, Breaking Up Opioid and Human Trafficking Ring

Contact: Andrea Bitely, Megan Hawthorne; (517) 373-8060

August 15, 2017

LANSING ­– Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced the arrest of four individuals charged with multiple crimes in connection with an opioid drug and human trafficking operation being run in Warren, Madison Heights, and Southfield. This case – which starkly highlights the tragic connection between highly addictive drugs and sex trafficking – stems from a coordinated effort between Schuette’s newly formed opioid trafficking unit and existing human trafficking unit, in conjunction with the FBI Oakland County Gang and Violent Crimes task force.

“Human traffickers will use anything to continue to hold their victims hostage in their dark world,” said Schuette. “We shouldn’t be surprised by their readiness to prey upon those suffering addiction, especially to opioids, which can be purchased cheaply in nearly any town or city across Michigan, to maintain control of their victims.  These traffickers of drugs and sex need to take notice – it will no longer be business as usual in Michigan.  I would like to thank the law enforcement officers from Oakland and Macomb Counties, as well as our federal partners at the FBI for their hard work on this case.”

Case Background

The complaint filed by Schuette alleges that Melvin Niblett, Corey Cooper, Maurice Rushton, and Jasmin McGinnis engaged in an operation to sell drugs through the illicit sale of sexual services.

The case began in September 2016 when the joint FBI and Oakland County Gang and Violent Crimes task force received a tip that an individual was running a drug and prostitution operation in Madison Heights. While under investigation, Niblett and Cooper were caught selling drugs in Warren and charged in a separate but related case by the Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith.  Niblett and Cooper were later released on bond.

In October 2016, police received a tip that Niblett was using rooms at a hotel in Southfield to conduct his drug and human trafficking operation. While dozens of individuals were involved, Niblett is alleged to have been at the top of the operation. Niblett and three others have been arrested and charged with a total of 24 felonies. The charges and defendants break down as follows:

Melvin Niblett, 38, of Southfield is charged with 10 felonies:

  • One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or a $100,000 fine or both.
  • One count of Conspiracy to Deliver 1,000 or more Grams of Cocaine, Heroin, or other Narcotic, a felony punishable by imprisonment of life or any term of years or a $1,000,000 fine or both.
  • One count of Possession with Intent to Deliver less than 50 Grams of Cocaine, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $25,000 or both.
  • One count of Possession with Intent to Deliver less than 50 Grams of Heroin, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $25,000 or both.
  • Two counts of Forced Labor Services involving commercial sex, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 15 years.
  • One count of Forced Labor or Services Forced Labor or Services involving commercial sex, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 15 years.
  • Three counts of Prostitution/Accepted Earnings, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years.

Corey Cooper, 45, is charged with two felonies:

  • One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $100,000 or both.
  • One count of Conspiracy to Deliver 1,000 or more Grams of Cocaine, Heroin, or other Narcotic, a felony punishable by imprisonment of life or any term of years or $1,000,000 or both.

Maurice Rushton, 57, is charged with 5 felonies:

  • One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $100,000 or both.
  • One count of Human Trafficking - Financially Benefit From – involving commercial sex, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 15 years.
  • Three counts of Prostitution/Transporting Person, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years.

Jasmin McGinnis, 27, of Canton, is charged with seven felonies:

  • One count of Conducting a Criminal Enterprise, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $100,000 or both.
  • One count of Possession with Intent to Deliver less than 50 Grams of Cocaine, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $25,000 or both.
  • One count of Possession with Intent to Deliver less than 50 Grams of Heroin, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years or $25,000 or both.
  • One count of Human Trafficking – Providing for forced labor – involving commercial sex, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 15 years.
  • Three counts of Prostitution/Accepted Earnings, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 20 years.

Niblett, Cooper and McGinnis are in custody awaiting a preliminary examination scheduled for August, 21, 2017.  Rushton, who was apprehended in Ohio, is awaiting extradition proceedings there.

A criminal charge is merely an accusation and all defendants in this case are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. 

Law Enforcement Quotes:

  • FBI Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios: “Drug and human trafficking continue to plague the safety of many communities in Michigan. Today’s arrests reflect the continuing impact federal, state and local law enforcement are having on the ability of criminals to victimize and enslave others through their addiction to a variety of dangerous and sometimes lethal drugs. As today’s charges are only a step towards ending traffickers ability to victimize individuals through the commercial sex trade, the FBI would like to encourage anyone with information regarding human trafficking to contact their nearest FBI field office or police department.”
  • Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard: "The individuals involved in this human and drug trafficking ring will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The victims deserve justice and I am proud of our task force members who partnered with the Attorney General and other agencies to send a clear message that these types of crimes will not be tolerated in our community."
  • Madison Heights Police Chief Corey Haines: “These charges are serious and cannot be taken lightly. It is my duty to keep the Madison Heights community safe. I was pleased to work with the Attorney General and the rest of the task force to investigate these allegations, helping to thwart the spread of human trafficking and take dangerous drugs off the streets. I would also like to thank the Madison Heights City Council for allowing our Police Department to assign an officer to the task force that investigated these serious crimes and help make Madison Heights a safer community.”
  • Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins: “The Southfield Police Department is committed to working with our federal, state and local partners to identify and apprehend individuals involved in drug dealing and human trafficking in Southeast Michigan.”

FBI Oakland County Gang and Violent Crime Task Force Involvement

The Oakland County Gang and Violent Crimes task force is operated by the FBI with state and local partners including:  Michigan State Police, Bloomfield Township Police Department, Southfield Police Department, Madison Heights Police Department, Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, Royal Oak Police Department, Troy Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This task force’s focus is usually on violent crime, so its involvement in this case is considered unique. After asking for the task force’s assistance in apprehending a suspect in a previous human trafficking case, the task force was able to recognize the connection between drug addiction and sex trafficking to bring this case to the attention of the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking and Opioid Trafficking units.

“The connection between sex trafficking and highly addictive drugs is unfortunately very common,” said Schuette. “I want to thank the FBI Oakland County Gang and Violent Crime Task Force for their diligence in recognizing this trend which expands outside the traditional scope of their unit. Their work was important in bringing these allegations to light and bringing an end to this dangerous ring.”

Protecting Victims, Stopping Trafficking in Michigan

Created by reallocating resources in the Attorney General’s Criminal Division, Schuette’s Human Trafficking Unit has placed an increased focus on combating human trafficking in Michigan, a priority Schuette identified upon taking office. The unit works closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to uncover and prosecute cases of modern-day slavery involving both children and adults.

For more information, please visit the Attorney General’s human trafficking webpage 

Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit

Also part of Schuette’s Criminal Division, the Opioid Trafficking and Interdiction Unit is comprised of four Assistant Attorneys General, each with extensive backgrounds in drug crime prosecution. The Unit focuses on cases that cross both state and county lines, involve multiple major actors, and high volumes of heroin and other opioid-based drugs.

The Unit has already taken on more than 40 cases, with six individuals already convicted and 15 currently facing charges. The cases have been and will continue to be charged in cooperation with local law enforcement, Michigan State Police narcotics teams and federal agencies. The Unit will also take on felony murder cases in which it is alleged that the delivery of opioids has caused death.

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Mug shot of NiblettMug shot of CooperMug shot of RushtonMug shot of McGinnis

          Niblett                             Cooper                       Rushton                       McGinnis