Man sentenced to probation in child trafficking case

January 9, 2024

Kenneth Smith and defense attorney Christopher Coyle during a hearing in Mason County’s 51st Circuit Court last November.

Man sentenced to probation in child trafficking case

By Allison Scarbrough, News Editor

LUDINGTON — One of three men arrested in a child trafficking sting operation last August was sentenced to three years probation in 51st Circuit Court Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Kenneth John Smith, 53, pleaded “no contest” Nov. 14 to 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 was dismissed. 

Smith was also sentenced to two days in jail with credit for two days served, according to court records, and ordered to pay $708 in fines and costs.

 

Volpp

Co-defendant Steven Wayne Volpp, 58, of Hart, pleaded guilty to a felony of accosting a child for immoral purposes and a misdemeanor of engaging in prostitution services, Oct. 24. One felony count of using a computer to commit a crime was dismissed. Volpp was sentenced last month to five years probation and three days in jail with credit for three days served.  

A third 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 was sentenced Nov. 28. Talevich’s sentencing is non-public.

Volpp’s attorney Jeffrey West cited a “bait-and-switch issue with the investigation” that is being reviewed by an appeals court. 

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). 

Talevich

“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. 

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.

 

 

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