A Detroit man has been charged with enslaving women, selling them for sex and producing child pornography, authorities said.
Ryan Travis, 32, pleaded not guilty earlier this week in federal court. He is being held without bail. If convicted, he would face a maximum sentence of life behind bars.
The case began as an identity-theft investigation, but authorities instead discovered a sex-trafficking operation run by Travis using four women he claimed were his wives, according to court documents, the Detroit Free-Press reported.
During a raid last month, West Bloomfield police found a 25-year-old woman chained to a stripper pole with a padlock around her neck, the documents said. When asked why she was chained, Travis told the officers he was “about to get freaky with her,” the court records said.
“Sex trafficking occurs all around us, and the victims are sometimes hiding in plain sight,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the paper.
The woman in chains told police she had been locked to the pole because she tried to escape and that Travis had beaten her, authorities said.
She had been living in the house with him and the three other women for two years, she said, according to court documents.
She told police Travis advertised sex for sale on the internet and when male customers came to the house, he would line up the women and tell the men to pick one, the documents said.
The men paid in cash, which Travis pocketed, she said. He also took the woman to the bank every month to cash her disability check and then stole the money from her, she told police.
Police also found child pornography on cell phones belonging to Travis, federal authorities said. In one video, a man is seen having sex with a young girl, according to court documents.
At a March 23 detention hearing, Travis told a judge, “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 paper reported.
He also asked for the dismissal of his public defender so he could represent himself in court.
Both requests were denied.