Founder of grocery store chain faces child prostitution charges

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron
By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – The founder and CEO of a major grocery store chain in Phoenix is facing child prostitution charges.

Michael Gilliland, 52, CEO of Wild Oats, was taken into custody Thursday afternoon at a hotel along the Black Canyon Highway.

The suspect is accused of soliciting sex online with a girl who had reportedly identified herself as being a minor.

Gilliland allegedly set up a meeting with the girl and drove to an undisclosed location so they could have sex. He is also accused of agreeing to pay the underage girl for sexual intercourse.

“A lot of the communication was online so it was apparent and it was obvious, it would’ve been obvious to this suspect, that the person he was going to go meet was in fact a minor,” said Sgt. Steve Martos with the Phoenix Police Department.

Phoenix police arrested the suspect when he showed up to the destination the victim and the suspect had agreed upon. Gilliland faces one count of child prostitution.

Gilliland has resigned as CEO amid the charges.

Sunflower said Gilliland told the company he believes he is not guilty. Sunflower's president and COO, Chris Sherrell, was named acting chief executive by the company's board of directors.

The chain has 32 stores in California, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Texas.

A Maricopa County magistrate has set a $12,000 bond for Gilliland.