Detectives announced on Tuesday that they have arrested five people in connection with two human trafficking cases in Pinellas County.
According to reports, all of the suspects are accused of having sex with underage girls, who they met online via social media websites.
In the first case, a 22-year-old man is facing charges of human trafficking, transmission of material harmful to minors, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, they were notified about the man in February when the mother of a 16-year-old girl told detectives that her daughter had several pornographic photos and videos of herself on her cell phone. She told police that she believed her daughter might be recruiting other underage girls for prostitution.
The girl told deputies that the man, whom they came to learn was referred to as “Pimp Master Flex,” posted photos of her on Craigslist several times to advertise her services as a prostitute.
Detectives allege that the man encouraged the girl to recruit other teenagers, and that the girl eventually recruited three girls, one of whom was 15 and two of whom were 17.
Detectives said they searched the man’s home in Palm Harbor on Monday and seized several items, including cell phones, Xboxes, external hard drives and marijuana.
Two other men, a 25-year-old and a 29-year-old were also arrested Monday on charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. Deputies believe the men had sex with the 16-year-old girl.
In the second case, detectives allege that they began an investigation in February after receiving a tip about a 16-year-old girl posting prostitution ads on Backpage.com.
Detectives claim they tracked the phone numbers, which led them to two men, one 22 and the other 23. The detectives claim the girl met the men online, and on March 6, the suspects picked the girl up and took her to a hotel in St. Petersburg.
The girl allegedly stayed with the men for several days, and during that time, the pair put several ads for her on BackPage.com, according to detectives.
Reports indicate that at least four men responded to the ads and came to the hotel to have sex with the girl.
Detectives claim that the girl was then forced to turn over her earnings to one of the men, detectives said.
The girl told police that she asked to keep some of the cash, but one of the men grabbed her by the throat and told her never to “disrespect him like that” again.
The girl said that is when she left the hotel.
Both of the men were arrested on Monday in a parking lot at 22nd Avenue and 31st Street S in St. Petersburg. They are facing charges of human trafficking.
All suspects were taken to the Pinellas County Jail.
The investigation is ongoing.
Any criminal accusation involving a sex crime charge is a very serious one. A conviction for a sex crimes charge carries harsh consequences, and aside from prison time and heavy fines, you could be forced to register as a sex offender. This means you will be required to register in a public database, which allows anyone with internet access to view the details of your crime.
Sex crimes, like human trafficking charges, carry a very negative stigma. However, the truth is that sex offenses are often based on false or exaggerated claims. That is why you need a Florida Human Trafficking Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton on your side to point out the weaknesses in the State’s case against you and make sure your story is heard.
We will fight aggressively to expose every flaw, weakness, and false or exaggerated claim against you. We will challenge the State’s evidence and seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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