The wedding sting

After months of undercover work, Williams and Moon had information on more than 40 suspects, but the department realized it didn’t have the funds or the manpower to round them all up. So it had to come up with clever ideas. “Cops used to offer parolees free tickets to the Detroit Lions, then arrest them,” recalls Peggy Lawrence, a Flint historian. On one occasion, Moon quietly arrested and locked up stolen property dealer, announced his death in the newspaper, and arrested gang members who showed up at his fake funeral. “Sometimes you gotta do things that are simply funny,” Moon later told a television reporter. “People gotta go to jail, but it don’t always have to be sad.” In 1990, the department planned a particularly elaborate operation: Officers would throw a fake wedding, invite all the suspects, and arrest them.

The sting would become a police legend. Former high-ranking DEA agent Michael Levine, who teaches investigative narcotics procedures around the world, says, “[The detectives] got it on video … I use that video in training undercover agents today.” Over the years, other agents have pulled off similar stings—like the one in 2009 where two FBI agents, posing as mobsters, staged a wedding onboard a yacht and trapped an Asian counterfeiting gang, scoring over $100 million in cash. Or the one in March 2015 where Houston police created a fake modeling studio in an operation designed to trap 40 johns. Or the one in 2013 where Belgian police caught a Somali pirate by hiring him as a consultant for a fake movie.

The Michigan wedding in 1990 was the original, and some say the greatest. By luring all the criminals to one place and arresting them simultaneously, the officers hoped to make a real impact, transforming the crime-ridden area and making it a place where people would want to live again.