GRAND BLANC TWP. — The Department of Homeland Security and Genesee County G.H.O.S.T. division have busted up a worldwide child pornography ring operating out of Genesee County.
Sheriff Chris Swanson said 36-year-old Preston C. Boehm of Grand Blanc Township is facing federal charges as a result of the Homeland Security investigation.
Authorities allege Boehm distributed child pornographic material to customers around the world via the dark web.
“This dark web we speak of, this is a layer below the internet where predators and pedophiles seek out child pornography to give and receive,” Swanson said.
Homeland Security reached out to the Sheriff’s Office after Boehm provided information leading to a home in Burton where three additional suspects allegedly created the material, Swanson said.
“In the late winter of 2022, Homeland Security got with the G.H.O.S.T. team members, and they hit a house on Chatham Drive in Grand Blanc Township,” she sheriff said. “They found that he (Boehm) was the orchestrator of other people, collecting pornography and trading it.”
Boehm led investigators to a home in the 4300 block of Hedgethorn Circle, near Richfield and Genesee roads in Burton, where authorities suspect three Burton residents groomed and drugged at least four children, ages 5 to 14 years old, in order to create the pornographic material, Swanson said.
The raid resulted in the arrests of Crystal A. Benton, 42, her fiancé, Nicholas Dunn, 41, and their roommate, Joshua Hippensteel, 45, who reportedly was in a relationship with Boehm, Swanson said.
“What they did as four adults who were charged with taking care of children, they exploited the children. They groomed them. They drugged them. And they monetized their sexual acts,” he said.
The suspects reportedly fed the children THC-laced gummies.
“They’d get them so drugged up and they’d take advantage of them,” the sheriff said.
He called the Burton residence the epicenter for manufacturing the pornographic material.
“There are some graphic details the investigators had to go over,” he said. “The gravity of what happened is so disgusting.”
Swanson gave an example that the Genesee County View will not repeat out of respect to the victims and readers.
“Who does that?” Swanson said. “Evil does that.”
To date, Benton is facing two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and single counts of child sexually abusive activity and accosting a child for immoral purposes. She remains jailed on $300,000 bond.
Dunn is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of accosting a child for immoral purposes. Hippensteel is facing single counts of child sexually abusive material and accosting a child for immoral purposes. Both men remain jailed without bond.
Swanson said investigators believe there are more victims and potentially more suspects. He urged anyone who may suspect that a child has been victimized by predators to call 911 or his office.
“There are great freedom fighters out there who are going to give you justice,” he said.