Police are commending a hotel worker who thwarted a sex trafficking operation involving two girls in a state that ranks third in human trafficking.
The hotel clerk at the Lago Motor Inn in Lake Worth Beach, Florida, became suspicious after he entered the room on Sunday and observed the girls sitting on a bed with Richard Flores, the 44-year-old suspect. Maria Barrios Calero, 44, is also named as a suspect.
Upon entering the room, the hotel clerk also saw a condom on the bed beside Flores, adding to his suspicions.
“The witness stated he called police after observing how young the two girls appeared to be and their demeanor,” the Palm Beach County Police Department stated in a press release lauding the hotel worker's decisive action. “Consent to search the room was provided by the hotel clerk, which resulted in locating the condom on top of the bed.”
An investigation by the detectives confirmed the two girls were the victims of a commercial sex trafficking operation, according to the release. According to the authorities, Calero allegedly arranged a “date” between Flores and the minor girls. Flores paid both of the girls to have sexual intercourse with him after they were transported to the hotel.
“Probable cause was developed leading to the arrest of both subjects,” the release states. “Calero was charged with three counts of Human Trafficking (Minor) while Flores was charged with two counts of Human Trafficking (Minor). Both subjects were transported to jail without incident.”
According to a public safety report on Palm Beach County’s website, Florida ranks third out of all states in the country for human trafficking incidents, and Palm Beach County holds the same ranking.
Earlier this week, The Christian Post reported on a separate sex trafficking incident involving a minor.
In that case, the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the California-based company Salesforce should have known that one of its clients, Backpage.com, was involved in the trafficking of minors. The plaintiffs at the center of the case, G.G., and her mother, Deanna Rose, are listed as the defendants in the case.
The pair claim that G.G. fell into the hands of sex traffickers after she ran away from home at the age of 13. The traffickers then used photos of the girl in advertisements for escorts on the now-defunct Backpage.com. The mother later found her daughter's image on the website.
Backpage is accused of failing to remove the ad soliciting sex with underage girls and instead referring the mother to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Writing for the majority opinion, Judge David Hamilton highlighted Salesforce’s business relationship with Backpage, which consisted of helping the latter company develop its marketing technology and software. The plaintiffs allege that this business relationship, which began in 2013, helped Backstage grow “to become the dominant force in online sex trafficking.”
“Salesforce's job was, in part, to help Backpage reach more customers, both in the form of sex traffickers and purchasers of commercial sex,” Hamilton wrote. “In a sense, Salesforce helped Backpage find more sex-trafficking contractors.”
According to the suit, since 2008, Backpage “had been publicly identified by law enforcement, United States Attorneys General, and every state Governor as the biggest and most notorious sex trafficking and pimping website in the United States.”
The suit also noted that in 2010, the National Association of Attorneys General publicly described Backpage as a “hub” of human trafficking, “especially the trafficking of minors.” In October 2016, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer was arrested for pimping minors.
Salesforce’s profits grew as Backpage’s business expanded, according to the suit, with the latter company’s profits totaling $46 million from the start of 2008 to the end of 2010. From January 2013 through May 2015, Backpage’s revenue reached approximately $346 million, with $340 million of those profits coming from adult advertising.