Beginning in March and extending through mid-August, the Genesee Count Sheriff's Office conducted several sting operations which resulted in the arrest of 17 individuals that were seeking sex with a minor, including one that was employed as a firefighter and worked previously as a police officer.
“These folks are among us and I want them to know there’s a watchdog out there,” Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said. This is the third such sting the Sheriff's Department has conducted.
During the sting, officers posed as 10, 14, and 15 year old children on various social media accounts. Over the span of the operation, those decoys spoke with 2,000 people seeking some kind of sexual contact with children.
The 17 individuals that actually showed up to presumably meet with and assault a child were arrested and will now be prosecuted.
The arrest garnering the most attention out of the 17 is that of 40-year-old Matthew J. Hyde of Burton, Michigan. Until this arrest, Hyde had been employed as a Burton firefighter. He now stands charged with child sexually abusive activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime.
Hyde had also previously worked as a police officer for the Mount Morris Police Department, Clayton Township Police Department, and even with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office as a part of the marine division.
At the time of his arrest, "he had two loaded firearms, a police ID, [and] a police badge which he was not associated with," located in his truck, Swanson said at the press conference.
Duane Haskins, Burton city Mayor announced that Hyde had been suspended without pay from the department. Haskins, who according to MLive had also previously served with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office explained that to most, "pinning the badge on your chest right above your heart" is something that is held as an honor and recognized as requiring honor and integrity.
“When you have somebody that has that badge and they go the other way and they do something derogatory, it then instills the distrust in the public,” Haskins continued. “I just want to let everybody know, especially in our city and the residents of Burton, that please don’t look at one individual that our fire department now is tainted and it’s bad. This was addressed, this was handled, it was corrected. This individual is no longer with the city.”
As a part of the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST) stings, four man teams were sent across the area seeking 27 at-risk children under the age of 17 that had been reported as "off the grid" by either schools, courts or individuals.
Those teams managed to recover 7 of the missing children.
Swanson reported that one 16-year-old girl had been recovered from a barn that was surrounded by barbed wire. "The fear in her eyes was real," Swanson said.
According to WEYI, the investigations are ongoing, and more information is to be released soon concerning the matter of the 16-year-old girl.