May 22, 2015

Sex Trafficker Christopher T. Bryant Gets 40 Years in Federal Prison for Trafficking Three Minors in West Michigan and One Woman in Arizona

GRAND RAPIDS, MI—Patrick Miles, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan announced today that Christopher T. Bryant, 25, of Detroit was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for sex trafficking three minor girls in Lansing, Michigan, and one woman in Phoenix, Arizona. This is the second ever federal conviction for sex trafficking in West Michigan, following Eddie Jackson’s 2014 trial for sex trafficking minor girls in Muskegon and Grand Rapids, for which he is serving a 30-year federal sentence.

Bryant faced a minimum possible sentence of 15 years and a maximum of life. At the sentencing hearing today, Bryant refused to take responsibility for his actions. In delivering the 40-year sentence, Chief United States District Judge Paul L. Maloney described Bryant as “a man who is totally self-absorbed,” “narcissistic to the extreme,” and “a major risk to reoffend.”

U.S. Attorney Miles stated, “This case involved yet another predator who took advantage of young girls and forced them into the sex trade. This defendant will now answer for his crimes with a long prison term. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement throughout Western Michigan will continue to aggressively fight crimes against children, sex trafficking and human trafficking and see that those who commit these crimes will be brought to justice.”

“The sentence handed down today holds Mr. Bryant accountable for his depraved criminal behavior, which violated those who are most vulnerable,” stated Paul Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “The West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force is committed to safeguarding our children and protecting our communities from the ills of human trafficking.”

Bryant’s four victims all testified at trial, along with other witnesses and federal agents. The first testified that she and Bryant were in a relationship in Michigan, and he was repeatedly violent towards her. He took her to Phoenix with him in 2012, where he checked them into a cheap motel, took her across the city to a busy highway intersection, and made her walk the streets for money. He told her how to attract the attention of passing cars and how to walk, but when she refused to get into cars with customers, Bryant became irate. He violently raped her at the motel, and she ran for help the next morning after escaping from him at a fast food restaurant. The other three victims, all minors, testified that Bryant recruited them through Facebook, at a bus station, or through another teenage girl in 2014. He posted photographs of them online advertising them as prostitutes and took them to cheap motels around Lansing, where customers responded to the ads and paid to have sex with them. Bryant told the girls he would split the money with them, but he only gave them drugs and alcohol. When one of the girls stayed out too late one night, Bryant choked her and threatened he could kill her and no one would know.

Bryant has a long criminal history, including violent assaults on other women, drug dealing, home invasion, and a high-speed chase in a stolen car. He made a video in a hotel that was posted on Facebook in late 2013 in which Bryant bragged about pimping “for a living” and how this was “only the beginning.”

The FBI and the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case jointly. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tessa Hessmiller and Russ Kavalhuna prosecuted the case. Bryant is linked to an alleged sex trafficking ring in Lansing involving Mariah Haughton and Jonathan Purnell, whose cases are pending in Ingham County.

Community members can help stop child sex trafficking in West Michigan by recognizing the warning signs and reporting suspicious activity to police. Teens who are vulnerable to being targeted by pimps are often discontent in school, absent from school or home, suicidal or suffering from low self-esteem, defiant towards authority, seeking quick sources of income, and craving independence. They may have a history of drug and alcohol use that a pimp can exploit as a means of “payment” to the teen. 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. Community members may encounter these suspicious situations at pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, fast food restaurants, grocery stores, casinos, and hotels.

If you suspect illegal activity involving child exploitation, contact law enforcement immediately. If a child is 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); or 1-800-THE-LOST® (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

The case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement.