GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A metro Grand Rapids man arrested last fall for human trafficking after a girl was found hiding in a car that crossed the Mackinac Bridge is now facing federal sex trafficking charges.
Terrence Donte Clay was indicted Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids on three charges that could put him in prison for decades. The indictment accuses him of trafficking a minor for commercial sex acts between early October and mid-November of 2022. A second count accuses him of sexual exploitation of a minor in Kent County over a two-day period in October.
He had been facing state charges in Kent County stemming from the same allegations; those charges have been dismissed, federal officials said Wednesday.
Clay took sexually explicit photos of a 16-year-old girl and directed her to take photos of her genitals, according to the indictment.
Clay is also charged with distribution of child pornography. The indictment accuses him of sending one or more images of child pornography from his iPhone.
“These sexual exploitation and child pornography allegations are extremely disturbing and very serious,’’ U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in a news release. “My office is committed to protecting our children as our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.’’
Clay, 39, came under scrutiny in October when investigators with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force got a tip about a 16-year-old girl that was being trafficked.
Authorities say they learned that a Comstock Park man befriended a 16-year-old Grand Rapids girl “in a public area.” Investigators say she was then trafficked using social media. Sheriff’s deputies got information that the teen was in the Upper Peninsula, possibly with the man. They informed northern Michigan authorities.
While the man was driving across the Mackinac Bridge on Nov. 12, a toll worker saw a person hiding underneath a blanket in the backseat of the man’s car. The Mackinac Bridge Authority notified police, who stopped the vehicle after it crossed the bridge. He was arrested and booked into the Cheboygan County Jail.
Clay arrived in Grand Rapids a little more than a week later and has been in the Kent County jail since. He remained there Wednesday on a $300,000 bond. It is expected he will be turned over to federal custody this week.
State charges filed against him included child sexually-abusive commercial activity, human trafficking, possession of child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit a crime.