Ten people face human trafficking charges after an alleged investigation showed one of them forced a teenage girl under their care into prostitution and the other nine paid to sexually assault her, according to state officials.
The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and other state agencies spent two years investigating this case and made arrests in five counties. Those arrested include an East Lake firefighter who lives in Spring Hill and a Hernando County restaurateur.
The investigation is ongoing and there more could be more arrests.
Officials said the accused trafficker was someone who had custody of the child, such as a parent or guardian. That person faces charges of human trafficking, conspiracy to commit human trafficking and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.
The other nine arrested face those charges, and additional charges of lewd or lascivious battery. They are being held without bail at various county jails.
Officials allege the girl was a middle-teenager who was forced into being sexually abused for about six months.
The Sheriff’s Office said it received an anonymous tip in May 2017 about ads on the now-shuttered website Backpage featuring the girl. An undercover operation apparently led investigators to a Hernando County home where the teen victim lived with the accused trafficker.
The teen victim was taken to a safe house for juvenile victims of trafficking outside the area.
Investigators allegedly found that the accused trafficker posted the ads on Backpage and took money from clients, and sometimes left the girl with them overnight in other counties.
Child sex trafficking in Florida is taken very seriously, and anyone accused of this crime is facing very serious consequences. Some of the most sensitive sex crimes cases involve children, so if you have been accused of a federal sex trafficking offense of any kind, it is essential that you begin working with a Florida Human Trafficking Attorney at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. We are prepared to begin launching a powerful defense strategy and do whatever it takes to defend your rights and your freedom in order to prove your innocence.
Sex crimes cases, such as human trafficking, are time sensitive. Before police start questioning you, you should secure legal representation so that you are aware of what you need to do to protect yourself. We stand ready to defend clients facing even the toughest felony charges in federal court. We will prepare you for dealing with federal agents and the U.S. attorney, and make sure everything you do protects your best interests.
If you are wrongfully convicted of sex trafficking, you could lose your freedom for the rest of your life. Let us help you. Call us today at 352-666-6666 or contact us online for a free consultation.
The staff was very attentive and answered all my questions regarding my criminal case. I was very pleased with the outcome and professionalism. Crystal Vasquez
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