A man in a Detroit suburb has been arrested and accused of enslaving, prostituting, and selling a group of women he insisted were his wives, authorities said Tuesday.
The case against Michigan man Ryon Travis, 32, originally started as a simple investigation into identity theft, but when police raided his home, they discovered a “house of horrors” with women chained up and evidence that Travis prostituted them out over the Internet. He was also charged with sexually exploiting children and engaging in child pornography.
Investigators in the Detroit suburban community of West Bloomfield say Travis would advertise the women on the Internet as available for sex, and when customers would arrive at the home, they would pay him cash up front for the sexual encounters.
Four women were found in the home, all of whom Travis claimed were his “wives.” But police say Travis held them all captive and even reported finding one of them chained by the neck to a stripper pole during a raid.
When asked why the woman was chained to the pole, Travis told police he was “about to get freaky with her.”
Police also put into evidence cell phone images of sexually exploited children. One was a video of an adult male having sex with an underage girl taken in Travis’s home. Police identified the distinctive bed sheets seen in the video as those found in the home to prove the video was made there.
Travis, the father of seven known children, insisted the girl in the video was one of his daughters and that the sex was consensual.
At his fist arraignment, Travis pleaded not guilty and even claimed that he didn’t recognize the power of the court, saying, “It is against my religion to be represented by someone of another nation, so I may as well represent myself. I’m a natural-born human of the American land. I choose not to do business with this court. I ask that this case be dismissed.”
The judge presiding didn’t see it Travis’s way, though, and held him over for trial despite his protestations.
“This was essentially a brothel or a house of prostitution,” a federal prosecutor said in court.
Travis was also accused of stealing the $700-per-month social security check of the 25-year-old woman found chained to the pole.
Still, one of the women who claims to be one of the suspect’s “wives” was upset over the arrest.
“It hurts. This is someone I love,” Stephany Moore said. “I don’t think he did this, I really don’t, but they (the police) keep saying they have proof.”
Neighbors told the media they were shocked by the allegations. Neighbor Robert Williams said if he knew what was going on, he may have intervened.
“It doesn’t make any sense to mess up a child like that for the rest of their life,” Williams told Fox 2 News. “In a case like that (if) I would caught the son of a (expletive) I would have done something to him myself.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at email@example.com.