Human trafficking investigation results in criminal charges for Ingham prosecutor

On Monday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, joined by Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, announced the filing of criminal charges against Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, III.
The charges were filed at four courts in three Michigan counties (Ingham, Clinton, and Ionia) and include a total of 15 criminal counts: Prostitu-tion/Pandering, 1 Count (Did induce, persuade, encourage, inveigle or entice a person to become a prostitute, contrary to MCL 750.455 - Felony, 20 years); Engaging in the Services of Prostitution, 10 Counts (Did engage or offer to engage the services of a person for the purpose of prostitution contrary to MCL 333.5129 - Misdemeanor, 93 days and/or $500);  Willful Neglect of Duty, 4 Counts (Did willfully neglect to perform his duty to refrain from blatant violations of the criminal law, a duty enjoined on him by his oath of office as a county prosecutor, contrary to MCL 750.478 - Misdemeanor, 1 year and/or $1,000)

Case Background

The charges against Stuart Dunnings grew out of a federal investigation into a Michigan-based human trafficking ring which took place in 2015.  The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan filed federal charges in that case against human trafficking ring leader Tyrone Smith in July 2015. On November 25, 2015, Tyrone Smith pleaded guilty and now awaits sentencing on three counts of sex trafficking young girls and women, including one minor.

Following the federal investigation into Tyrone Smith, members of the Michigan Attorney General’s office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Ingham County Sheriff’s Office jointly conducted an additional investigation based on information provided by witnesses in the federal investigation of Smith, which led to Stuart Dunnings.

The state-local-federal investigation resulted in evidence that Stuart Dunnings, the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney, allegedly paid for commercial sex (engaging in prostitution) hundreds of times in three counties (Ingham, Clinton and Ionia), with multiple women, between 2010 – 2015. Contact with these women allegedly took place via escort websites.

Furthermore, evidence showed that Dunnings also allegedly induced a woman to become a prostitute who had not previously been one, resulting in the charge of Pandering, a 20-year felony.

Finally, as a result of the entirety of the evidence, Schuette also charged Dunnings with multiple counts of Willful Neglect of Duty for failing to refrain from committing blatant violations of the law as the prosecutor of Ingham County.

Charges against Stuart Dunnings were filed today at the following four locations, based on where the crimes allegedly took place: 54-A District Court in Lansing (Ingham County), 55th District Court in Mason (Ingham County), 65-A District Court in St. Johns (Clinton County), and 64-A District Court in Ionia (Ionia County).

The defendant was taken into custody by Ingham County Sheriff’s Office Monday without incident and is being scheduled for arraignment.

Dunnings has served as Ingham County Prosecutor since 1997 and has been an outspoken advocate for ending human trafficking and prostitution.  

Schuette also announced that Stuart Dunnings’ brother, Lansing attorney Steven Dunnings, was charged with two counts of Engaging the Services of Prostitution as a result of the same investigation. Steven Dunnings will be charged in 54-A District Court and his arraignment will be scheduled.

Schuette will also send notification of charges to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission because both are attorneys.

At the announcement in Lansing Monday, officials offered the following comments:

Attorney General Bill Schuette: “Human trafficking is a crime that puts people, in this case young women, into situations where their lives are endangered and where they are manipulated and brutalized. During an investigation into a suspected human trafficking ring, we discovered that one of our own was using the services of women who were being trafficked.

“We live in a time where people wonder if government actually works. People wonder if the system is rigged. People wonder whether we have a "wink and a nod" justice system where the chosen few skate and escape punishment because of who they know or because they hold an important position in government. Well, let me be very direct and crystal clear. The system in Michigan is not rigged. Not on my watch.

“A personal comment. I have worked with Stuart Dunnings while I have served as Attorney General. I am saddened that an elected official who holds a special trust from voters and is the chief prosecutor in our capital city would allegedly engage in conduct causing felony and misdemeanor charges to be filed.”

Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth: “Engaging in criminal behavior while serving as the Ingham County Prosecutor is a betrayal to everyone in our county that has voted for Mr. Dunnings over the last several decades. His alleged behavior is not what best represents law en-forcement in Ingham County or... anywhere in Michigan.”

FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Ted Docks provided this comment: “Through the course of investigating a human trafficking case with our partners from the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, we developed information we could not ignore involving a public official. Although that information did not reach the threshold for a federal violation, we shared that information with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. This sort of interagency coordination is routine to ensure crime problems in the Lansing area are addressed appropriately.”

Schuette strongly encourages others who may have been a victim or witnessed misconduct by Dunnings to contact his investigation team directly by calling 517-241-6556.

A charge is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty