Records: 6,000 online ads linked to Wayland-based sex trafficking ring

Allegan County

WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Search warrants from a two-year investigation into a prostitution ring reveal more than 50 victims were trafficked at a Wayland home and motels in the Grand Rapids area.

“For our city, it’s a large operation. I hope, I hope, there is nothing bigger going on,” Wayland Police Department Chief Mark Garnsey said. “So it’s quite a save.”

The recently unsealed search warrants said that investigators believe that over the course of two y ears, the ring produced nearly 6,000 prostitution ads offering a “slumber party” or “erotic body rubs.” One was titled, “Hosting in Wayland XO.”

All the posts listed the same two phone numbers that traced back to a house on West Maple Street in Wayland. It’s the home of Robert Grigsby.

Grigsby declined to comment to News 8.

He, along with Vanessa Phillips, are now charged with sex trafficking, accepting earnings from prostitution and conspiracy to conduct a criminal enterprise. 

Investigators say they have bank records showing the defendants spent more than $5,000 on motel rooms over a 10-month period.

At the home on West Maple, police documented 135 different vehicles over 41 days of surveillance. The owners had addresses in Michigan, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Minnesota. 

Police say the sex trafficking ring dates back to at least 2016. They raided the house July of 2019 and the charges were filed against Grigsby and Phillips last month.

Grigsby’s home is a one-minute drive from the police department in a city that covers only 3 square miles. So in such a small town, how did it take so long for officers to notice what was going on?

“Well, it’s like a drug house or anything… Cars pull up and are gone and an hour later, you make your rounds again. Do you notice that there are two different cars parked there than the hour before?” Garsney said. “It’s nice to say that we should have seen this a lot sooner, but I can tell you this is happening in every community someplace, somewhere.”

Garnesy said the police did get some calls about the home, but “not as many as I would like.”

“We found that when we did an investigation at the house, the neighbors came up and said, ‘Well, it’s about time.’ And we said, ‘About time for what?’ And they said, ‘Well, we kind of knew something.’ And I said, well, it’s funny that people will pick up the phone when a dog is running loose, but they won’t pick up the phone and say this house is strange.”

Grigsby and Phillips are due back in court for a probable cause hearing on Thursday.

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