*Correction: A previous version of this article included an incorrect statement about the Portage school bus driver’s administrative leave. He is on unpaid leave. We regret the error, which has been fixed.
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office says its task force that targets people soliciting sex from teens online has arrested six more men, including a Portage school bus driver.
“These people were seeking sex with minors and made themselves known to law enforcement,” Sheriff Richard Fuller said.
Alexander Bogdan, 33, of Martin; Paul Drummond, 58, of Kalamazoo; Joshua Knapp, 43, of Wayland; Brian Malone, 39, of Byron Center; Brandon Moore, 37, of Kalamazoo; and John Morrill, 50, of Kalamazoo each face charges of accosting a child for immoral purposes and computer crimes. Malone also faces a charge of child sexually abusive material and Bogdan a charge of aggravated indecent exposure.
Fuller said members of his Kalamazoo Human Oppression Strike Team, or KHOST, posed as juveniles on hundreds of sites and apps and messaged with men who were looking to have sex with minors.
“Once they have connected, the innocent conversations can turn to explicit questions and propositions,” Fuller said at a Friday morning news conference. “Sadly, that’s what we find on a regular basis.”
The sheriff’s office did not detail what apps or websites were used or what the age and gender of the undercover detectives posed as.
Drummond, who also goes by the first name Gene, was arraigned Friday afternoon and his bond set at $10,000 cash or surety. He is a school bus driver for Portage Public Schools.
It sent a letter to parents Friday, the school district said it was told Drummond tried to solicit sex from a person he thought was 15-year-old girl but who was actually a sheriff’s deputy.
The district confirmed to News 8 that Drummond is on unpaid administrative leave. It said he drove bus 46 to Northern High, North Middle and 12th Street Elementary. It said the sheriff’s department did not have any reports that Drummond tried to solicit any students. It directed parents with concerns to call the sheriff’s office or the school counselor.
“We also want to assure you that Portage Public Schools thoroughly vets each employee we hire. We conduct fingerprint-based national and state criminal background check on every new employee and check the sex officer registry,” the letter to parents read in part. “In this case, Mr. Drummond had a spotless record during and prior to his time at PPS. Mr. Drummond had worked for PPS since December of 2019.”
The sheriff’s office said Bogdan was a postal worker but the U.S. Postal Service told News 8 later Friday he is “no longer employed” with the agency. Malone works for metro Grand Rapids home security firm Network Fire and Security and Moore an employee of Stryker. Knapp is unemployed. The sheriff’s office did not have information about Morrill’s employment.
The suspects’ listed offense dates range from May 20 to Aug. 21, with Drummond’s being the most recent. He is expected back in court for hearings on Sept. 6 and Sept. 13.
Accosting a child for immoral purposes is a four-year felony and using a computer to commit a crime is punishable by between four and 10 years in prison. Aggravated incident exposure is a two-year misdemeanor.
KHOST’s first sting was in April, when it netted three men, one of whom was a Western Michigan University campus police officer and another of whom worked in a nursing and rehab facility in Mattawan. In that sting, authorities said, the men thought they were talking with a 15-year-old girl over the internet when they asked for sex. The person they were speaking with was actually an undercover police officer. When the men arranged to meet up and went to a Kalamazoo-area hotel, they were arrested.
Fuller and Portage Public Schools urged parents and families of students to be proactive.
“Contact your cellphone providers, as well as computer and internet providers and ask them what it is you can do to be an active participant in your child’s online activities. We find that the parents are often not aware of what’s going on with their children’s phone use or computer activity,” Fuller said. “While the KHOST operations are making strides in our fight to combat this immense problem, we cannot do this alone. It takes a team.”
Portage Public Schools provided resources for parents to speak to their children about predators from Protect Young Eyes, Stop It Now and RAINN. The district also provided a link to its policies for district-issued technology.
Fuller says victims of sex trafficking can reach out to his department or seek resources through the YWCA Kalamazoo at 269.385.3587.
—News 8’s David Horak contributed to this report.