Third defendant pleads ‘no contest’ in child trafficking case

November 14, 2023

Kenneth Smith, at left, and defense attorney Christopher Coyle.

Third defendant pleads ‘no contest’ in child trafficking case

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

LUDINGTON — The third of three men who are defendants in a child trafficking case in Mason County has pleaded “no contest.”

Kenneth John Smith, 53, pleaded Tuesday, Nov. 14, to a felony charge of using a computer to commit a crime and a misdemeanor of engaging in prostitution services. A felony charge of accosting a child for immoral purposes will be dismissed.

Smith’s sentencing is set for Jan 9 at 2:30 p.m.

Co-defendant Steven Volpp, 58, of Hart, pleaded guilty to a felony of accosting a child for immoral purposes and engaging in prostitution services, Oct. 24. 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 to accosting a child for immoral purposes, using a computer to commit a crime and engaging in prostitution services, Oct. 17, and is set for sentencing Nov. 28. 

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.

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 Genesee 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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