East Lansing man accused of raping woman lured from Italy as au pair

GRAND RAPIDS — FBI agents claim in a federal court filing that an East Lansing man who lured a woman to the U.S. from Italy under the guise of being an au pair, or nanny, for his niece tried to sexually exploit her.

He is also accused of having possession of sexually explicit photos and videos of two other teens under the age of 18.

Arisknight Arkin-Everett Winfree is charged in a criminal complaint with kidnapping and sexual exploitation of a child after sexual videos and photos of two minors were found, according to an affidavit filed in federal court this week by FBI agent Christopher Rodolico.

Winfree, who is described as appearing to be in his 30s, is being held is in detention. He was scheduled to appear in a Grand Rapids courtroom Thursday afternoon without bond, according to federal court records, some of which have been sealed.

Winfree's defense attorney, Helen Nieuwenhuis, was not available for comment.

The woman from Italy is identified in court records with initials. Two other teens are identified in court records as victims.

East Lansing Police went to a home where Winfree was living in the 300 block of Highland Avenue in September, well before the woman from Italy came to the U.S., court records show. An 18-year-old Kansas girl who had been hired as an au pair asked, though a sister, to be escorted from the home by police because she felt uncomfortable, according to the affidavit.

East Lansing police, and the two women, found no photos or toys or other evidence that would suggest a niece or other children lived at Winfree's home, according to court records.

Police found the windows were covered from the inside with paper and numerous surveillance cameras were visible outside.

The East Lansing Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The women from Italy and Kansas both said they were connected through aupair.com, a website that connects people with host families. AuPair.com did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. His application to aupair.com, according to court records, asked for a female au pair between the ages of 16 and 23.

The affidavit outlines a scheme to bring the woman from Italy to East Lansing by falsifying the reason for her visit, claiming it was tourism.

Soon after waking up following her first night in East Lansing in October, the woman said she was assaulted, with Winfree filming her and forcing her to say she consented. After leaving her tied up for a day, Winfree stole her money and her phone's SIM card, and dropped her off at a bus station in the middle of the night, according to the FBI affidavit.

The woman said she returned to Italy and went to an Italian hospital after arriving home. The allegations were reported to East Lansing police within a week of the reported assaults. Subsequent interviews with the woman led to the federal criminal complaint.

Police raided Winfree's home in December and seized 10 firearms, almost 80 grams of "suspected cocaine," and electronic devices including phones, according to court records. The affidavit says some of the evidence is consistent with drug trafficking, but the criminal complaint is, as of Jan. 26, limited to kidnapping and sexual exploitation complaints.

The exploitation complaint centers on a second set of sexual offenses related to child pornography, stemming from videos and photos of teens. One of the teens, who was 17, told police there was consensual sex, according to court records. The FBI agent's affidavit describes the possession and creation of videos and photos of the minors as child pornography.

One of the minors was asked to take "hs girls" to Winfree and a friend of his, according to text messages included in the affidavit.

One of the minors identified two vehicles Winfree used, a 2021 Porsche Boxster and a BMW, and police found matching cars registered to Winfree at the same address.

His next court date Feb. 21 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.

Contact Mike Ellis at mellis@lsj.com or on Twitter @MikeEllis_AIM

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: East Lansing man accused of luring au pair from Italy, high school girls for sex