The HPOU is honoring Detective Michael Lareau as its Investigator of the Month for May.
Vice Commander James B. Dale nominated Lareau and presented this account of the case which led to his nomination and selection.
Detective Lareau interviewed a victim of Human Trafficking. The victim stated she believed she was in a dating relationship with the suspect, whom she met on a dating app. When the victim arrived in Houston to meet the suspect, he forced her into prostitution in order to make money for his own benefit.
During a three-week time frame, the suspect forced the victim into at least 15 sex dates. Over this period the victim lived in constant fear of violence. The suspect would belittle her, threaten to beat her, and threaten to kill her son and her family.
At one point, the suspect’s threats became reality when he beat the victim severely and choked her. Detective Lareau conducted multiple interviews with witnesses, the suspect and the victim. After having enough evidence, the detective filed charges on the suspect.
For the next year, even after the charges were filed, Detective Lareau continued the investigation by gathering additional evidence to ensure the case could be prosecuted. This evidence included, downloading and reviewing over 16 hours of hotel security video, executing warrants on phones, as well as getting search warrants for several social media accounts.
Detective Lareau ensured the wellbeing of the victim was the most important aspect of this case.
From the time he was made aware of the incident until the suspect was sentenced, he was by the victim’s side. On the morning of the outcry, Lareau contacted the YMCA and had a victim’s advocate come to the Midwest Station and go with the victim to the hospital so an exam could be completed.
The detective knew this would be a scary and lonely time for the victim and he did not want her to be alone. He also ensured the victim received follow up treatment including treatment for PTSD through a local organization in Mississippi, from where the victim was originally recruited by the suspect.
Court preparation began in December. In court, not only was the victim going to be forced to relive this terrifying incident, she was going to come face to face with the suspect who did this to her. Through back and forth phone calls with the victim, Detective Lareau could sense some apprehension in the victim about testifying.
He spent countless hours on the phone reassuring and counseling the victim in a way that helped her find the bravery to testify in this horrific case. When it came time for the victim to testify, she had no way of getting back to Houston and nowhere to stay. The detective arranged for the victim’s lodging prior to the trial. This act enabled the victim to arrive in Houston and testify.
The suspect was charged with Assault (Family Violent) Impeding Breath and Compelling Prostitution. He received 30 years for family violence impeding breath and 25 years for Compelling Prostitution.
The sentence is to run consecutively for a total of 55 years. Through his exemplary investigative work and dedication to the Human Trafficking Mission, Detective Lareau was able to rid Houston of a very dangerous sex trafficker / gang member.