BURTON — A Burton firefighter is facing charges after being arrested in a sting operation conducted by the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST).
Matthew Hyde, 40, was arrested earlier this month by GHOST operatives for allegedly attempting to meet up with two 14-year-old girls for sex. He has been charged with child sexually abusive activity and accosting a child for immoral purposes.
Hyde is among 17 suspects who have been arrested in GHOST operations since March 12. In each of the sting operations, undercover officers posed as underage children and interacted with suspects online to arrange meetings for sexual encounters.
Investigators said that Hyde chatted online with two undercover officers who were posing as 14-year-olds and attempted to meet them at a local hotel. When Hyde was taken into custody, police found two loaded firearms in his vehicle, along with a police ID and a police badge.
Hyde previously worked as a police officer for the Clayton Township, Mt. Morris, Genesee Township and Genesee County Parks and Recreation departments before leaving law enforcement in 2015. According to investigators, he was not affiliated with the police badge that was in his possession.
Hyde, formerly the union president for Burton firefighters, has been suspended without pay by the City of Burton Fire Department.
At an Aug. 19 press conference held by Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, Burton Mayor Duane Haskins said that Hyde’s actions do not reflect the values upheld by the City of Burton Fire Department.
“Pinning the badge on your chest above your heart is a thing that most of us hold true (with) honor and integrity, and to protect and save and work for the people,” he said. “When you have someone with that badge who uses it to commit something derogatory, it then instills distrust in the public.
“Please, don’t look at one individual and think that our department is tainted and is bad,” Haskins added. “This was addressed, handled and corrected. This individual is no longer with the department. The police chief, the fire chief and myself will demand integrity and honor, and we will deal with people who do not want to handle that in the fashion that they should.”
Altogether, Hyde will be facing two 20-year felonies and a four-year felony.
Other suspects who have been arrested in recent GHOST operations include Thomas Trinklein, a 34-year-old man from Saginaw who was arrested in Davison; John Linsner, a 43-year-old maintenance worker from Grand Blanc; and Pong Lor, a 34-year-old assembly worker from Shelby Township who was arrested in Grand Blanc.
During the most recent round of GHOST operations conducted on Aug. 12, 13, and 14, authorities also arrested a 35-year-old construction worker from Burton and a 26-year-old roofer from Flushing after they allegedly attempted to meet underage children for sex.
Over 70 individuals have been arrested by the GHOST task force since it was developed in 2018.