KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office says it has arrested three people, including a Western Michigan University public safety officer, following an online sting targeting people soliciting sex from teens.
The suspects were identified as Aaron Bower-Guimond, 27, of Mattawan; Abraham Hohnke, 49, of Portage; and Nathan Ruzick, 26, of Mattawan. Each has been arraigned on a count of accosting a child for immoral purposes. Hohnke was also charged with using a computer to commit a crime. All of the charges are four-year felonies.
The three suspects were arrested this week, the Kalamazoo County sheriff said, though he didn’t say exactly when.
Hohnke was a WMU Department of Public Safety officer. A WMU spokesperson told News 8 that as soon as campus police became aware of Hohnke’s arrest, he was suspended without pay and given notice that he would be fired “pending review,” as is required by his contract. He resigned Friday afternoon effective immediately.
Bronson Healthcare said it hired Bower-Guimond in February as a nursing assistant at Bronson Commons, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in Mattawan. The hospital system said he has been suspended. Ruzick is a truck driver.
Sheriff Richard Fuller said at a Friday afternoon news conference that the three men used the internet to try to solicit sex from a 15-year-old girl, but they were actually speaking with an undercover officer.
“The operation … was essentially the same per person that was arrested in this: They start a conversation online in chat rooms with someone, a police officer, posing as a minor child,” Fuller said.
A sworn statement filed in Kalamazoo County court says investigators set up an online ad to attract targets then moved the conversations to text messages. Fuller said the suspects talked with the undercover agent about sexual acts and made arrangements to meet at a hotel near Kalamazoo. Deputies arrested the men at that hotel, the Best Western in Oshtemo Township.
An investigator wrote in the court document that Bower-Guimond admitted to detectives after his arrest that he planned to have sex with a 15-year-old at the hotel.
Fuller said the sting looked for people “actively already seeking sex with a minor.” He said it recorded about 1,000 contacts over the course of eight hours of people trying to talk to and perhaps solicit a teen for sex. He said the sting covered multiple online platforms, though he didn’t name them.
The sheriff said the sting was his department’s first but promised it would not be the last.
“If you’re involved in these crimes in Kalamazoo County, we will find you and we will arrest you,” Fuller said.
He urged victims of sex trafficking to reach out to his department. He also said that YWCA Kalamazoo has resources for victims. That agency can be reached anytime at 269.385.3587.
He added that parents should engage in their children’s online activity to help them avoid predators. The state has resources for parents online.