Hart man pleads guilty in child trafficking case

October 24, 2023

Hart man pleads guilty in child trafficking case

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

LUDINGTON — Two of three men who are defendants in a child trafficking case in Mason County have pleaded guilty.

Volpp

Steven Volpp, 58, of Hart, pleaded guilty to accosting a child for immoral purposes and engaging in prostitution services in 51st Circuit Court Tuesday, Oct. 24, according to Mason County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Beth Hand. One count of using a computer to commit a crime will be dismissed.

Volpp’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. 

Co-defendant Gabriel Talevich, 20, of Wyoming, Michigan, pleaded guilty as charged, Oct. 17, and is set for sentencing Nov. 28, said Hand. He pleaded guilty to felonies of accosting a child for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime and a misdemeanor of engaging in prostitution services.

Talevich

Accosting a child for immoral purposes is punishable by up to four years in prison; using a computer to commit a crime is punishable by four to 10 years in prison (depending on the crime that was committed); and engaging in prostitution services carries a maximum term of up to 93 days in jail.

The third defendant — Kenneth Smith, 53, of Ormond Beach, Florida — is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Nov. 14, said Hand. 

Smith

Following a two-week investigation, the three men were arrested in a child sex trafficking sting Aug. 10 at Suttons Landing, where the men each thought they were meeting up with a 15-year-old child for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity, previously stated Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole. 

The operation was a collaboration with the Gnnesee County Sheriff’s Office human trafficking team GHOST (Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team) and also included cooperation with the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and SSCENT (State, Sheriff’s, Chief’s Enforcement of Narcotics Team). 

“This operation involved the suspects engaging in online chatting with a person they believed to be a 15-year-old,” Sheriff Cole said. “Make no mistake, those arrested knew full well the age of the person being solicited. After a price for services was established, a meeting was set up at Sutton’s Landing on Iris Road in Pere Marquette Township. 

Editor-in-Chief Rob Alway contributed to this article.

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