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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Michigan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Lansing Pimp Pleads Guilty To Sex Trafficking A Minor, Becoming The Tenth Person Convicted Federally Of Sex Trafficking In West Michigan

          GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN – Nicko Ray Rush II, 26, of Lansing, Michigan, pled guilty on January 24, 2017, to sex trafficking a minor by force, threats of force, fraud, or coercion. A grand jury charged Rush in November 2016 with sex trafficking two girls, ages 15 and 16, and one adult in Ingham County and elsewhere. Rush admitted at the plea hearing that he took both teens from Lansing to Detroit to "walk the streets" when they were 15 and that he kept the proceeds from their commercial sex acts. He admitted to giving the girls drugs and cigarettes and instructing them on how to walk to attract johns in passing cars. He also admitted to posting ads online for commercial sex for one of the girls and being violent and threatening towards both her and the adult victim.

          Rush faces a minimum of 15 years and up to 25 years in federal prison. The Honorable Robert J. Jonker, Chief U.S. District Judge, will sentence Rush on June 5, 2017. Rush has been held in custody since his arrest on December 8, 2016, and he will remain detained pending sentencing. The sentence could also include a fine of up to $250,000 and an order that he pay restitution to any of his sex trafficking victims, which can cover victims’ costs such as counseling and medical treatment related to the crime.

          Rush is the tenth defendant to be convicted federally of sex trafficking in the Western District of Michigan, starting with Eddie Allen Jackson in 2014, who was convicted at trial of recruiting three Muskegon girls ages 14, 15, and 16 into commercial sex in Grand Rapids. (See https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdmi/pr/2014_0916_EJackson.html.) Since that case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan has successfully prosecuted nine additional sex trafficking defendants, including Rush. Together, these cases involved 13 victims under the age of 18 and five adult victims, all of whom were local West Michigan residents from cities including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, and Battle Creek. The defendants – nine males and one female – ranged in age from 22 to 45 years old and were also all local to West Michigan. Some of the defendants had histories of significant drug and violent criminal offenses. These ten sex trafficking convictions resulted from collaborative investigations by multiple agencies in each case, including the FBI in Grand Rapids and Lansing; the FBI’s West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX); the Department of Homeland Security; the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office; the Battle Creek Police Department; the Grand Rapids Police Department; the Muskegon Police Department; the Lansing Police Department; and various juvenile detention, probation, and rehabilitation facilities. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller is the Coordinator for Human Trafficking prosecutions at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan and was the lead prosecutor for each of these ten cases.

          "Sex trafficking isn’t something that only happens elsewhere to some other community’s minors and vulnerable adults," stated Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. "These are West Michigan defendants targeting West Michigan victims. We rely on the many good people in our community and the skilled law enforcement agencies we have in this District to notice and intervene in suspicious situations."

          "The investigation and conviction of Nicko Rush II are a model of collaboration between investigators from the Lansing Police Department (LPD) and our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners," stated Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski. "LPD will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who are responsible for human trafficking crimes will be held accountable for their actions."

          Community members can learn more about how to recognize and stop sex trafficking in West Michigan by contacting their local human trafficking task force, including the task forces in Kent County, Kalamazoo, and the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force. Additionally, the U.S. Attorney’s Office offers human trafficking training upon request.

          The first step to stopping sex trafficking in our community is recognizing the warning signs and reporting suspicious activity to police. Some of the warning signs that make children and teens vulnerable to potential recruitment include being unhappy in school, absent from school or home, suicidal or suffering from low self-esteem, defiant towards authority, drug use or curiosity, seeking quick sources of income, and craving independence. Warning signs of child sex trafficking include seeing an adult man with multiple teenagers – particularly girls – buying condoms, alcohol, cigarettes, clothing, hair/nail supplies, or prepaid gift or debit cards that can be used to make untraceable purchases such as online prostitution advertisements. Community members may encounter these suspicious situations anywhere, including supermarkets, parking lots, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, bus depots, fast food restaurants, hotels, and casinos. Sometimes the pimp, who may be male or female, recruits victims through the promise of having someone to meet the victim’s basic needs for housing, food, cash, and "love" or "friendship"; the promise of drugs and alcohol; use of threats and violence; or any combination of these means. Pimps often use an intermediary – such as a young woman or teenage girl – to recruit victims into a "money-making opportunity" that turns out to be commercial sex.

          "The sexual exploitation of minors and adults is a reoccurring menace to Michigan communities and has lasting damaging impacts on its victims," said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Detroit Division. "Drugs and physical violence were just some of the tools Mr. Rush utilized to coerce the victims in this investigation. Through the continuing efforts of the FBI and our law enforcement partners, we want victims of any form of trafficking to know there is hope, and we encourage you to contact the FBI or your local police department if you have information about any human trafficking activity."

          If you suspect illegal activity involving child exploitation or sex trafficking, contact law enforcement immediately. If a person may be in imminent danger, call 911. To report suspicious activity involving possible sex trafficking, call: West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force (WEBCHEX) at 616-456-5489; Homeland Security Investigations, Grand Rapids, at 616-235-3936 (x. 2215); 1-800-THE-LOST® (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children); or report tips anonymously to Silent Observer at 616-774-2345.

          The Nicko Rush case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated January 25, 2017