A police investigation into fraud and identity theft in Michigan involving an antigovernment “sovereign citizen” took a dramatic turn when police discovered what they described as a “house of horrors.”
Ryon Lenelle Travis was arrested last month when police executed a search warrant at the 32-year-old suspect’s Detroit home and found a 25-year-old woman with a chain around her neck, locked to a stripper pole.
A four-count indictment accused him of sexual exploitation of children; involvement with activities and material constituting child pornography and sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion.
The woman, who has not been identified, told police she was one of four sex slaves living in the home that authorities described as a prison-like brothel run by Travis, the Chicago Tribune reported. She had been chained to the pole for two weeks as a punishment for attempting to escape, police said.
Authorities said the woman told them that Travis took her to a bank every month and forced her to turn over her $700 Social Security disability check to him.
The suspect called the women his “wives” and advertised on the Internet and in chat rooms that he had “four women for sale,” inviting cash-paying customers to the residence, the newspaper reported.
Police called the residence as a “house of horrors,” not only because of the sex slaves Travis kept, but because of suspected child sexual abuse that also occurred there, according to the newspaper report.
During the search of the residence, investigators found and seized two cell phones containing graphic images of a man sexually abusing children, a federal criminal complaint said.
One of the woman who had been held as a slave described Travis as a sovereign citizen. During a court appearance late last month, the defendant’s remarks to the judge seemed to back that description.
“It is against my religion to be represented by someone of another nation, so I may as well represent myself,” Travis told the court.
“I'm a natural-born human of the American land,” Travis said. “I choose not to do business with this court. I ask that this case be dismissed.”
The judge denied that request.