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Defendants Facing Human Trafficking Charges Plead Guilty, One Sentenced to Prison

LANSING - Two individuals previously charged with sex trafficking pleaded guilty to a felony human trafficking and will serve prison time, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today. 

Last year, the Department of Attorney General worked alongside Wayland Police to charge Robert Grigsby, 52, of Wayland, and Vanessa Anne Phillips, 40, of Grand Rapids, for conducting a criminal enterprise comprised of prostitution and sex trafficking of numerous women in Grigsby's home in Wayland, and other locations throughout the greater Grand Rapids area.  

Both pleaded guilty to one count of human trafficking, forced labor resulting in commercial sexual activity. 

Grigsby was sentenced Monday in Allegan County Circuit Court. Judge Margaret Bakker imposed the maximum term when sentencing him to prison for 57 months to 15 years. 

Phillips will be sentenced March 28. 

"Our partnerships with local law enforcement agencies like the Wayland Police Department make it possible to pursue these predators wherever they are operating in Michigan," Nessel said. "My office will continue to investigate and hold accountable anyone who tries to exploit vulnerable individuals for profit." 

Wayland Police began an investigation into a human trafficking operation being conducted out of a Wayland residence in October 2018. The investigation uncovered evidence of commercial sexual activity and transporting women for illegal activities from which the accused allegedly profited.   

"Through law enforcement collaboration, criminal enterprises that choose to set up in small towns can still be brought to justice," Wayland Police Chief Mark Garnsey said. "I believe this is the result the citizens of Wayland have been waiting for. Thanks to the Human Trafficking Task Force, consisting of the Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police and the FBI, we were able to bring a great resolution to this case." 

Nessel's Human Trafficking Initiative has provided training to more than 1,000 professionals and filed charges against more than 30 individuals for human trafficking - all leading to arrests. It has successfully convicted 26 defendants, with cases against several additional defendants currently pending. The department is also home to the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission which works to direct state policy on human trafficking.