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More Than 170 Suspects Arrested In Connection With Tallahassee Human Trafficking Case

Two posters have mug shots printed on them.
Robbie Gaffney
/
WFSU-FM
Tallahassee Police arrested more than 170 suspects in connection with a human trafficking case. Those suspects' mug shots were displayed on posters during a press conference on the investigation that led to the arrests.

More than 170 people have been arrested in the wake of a human trafficking investigation. The arrests expand beyond Leon County to Mississippi and Alabama. After seeing an online post of an underage victim being sexually exploited, TPD launched an investigation.

"In November of 2018, investigators with TPD's special victim's unit saw images of a child that were being posted on a website that advertises sex for money," Revell says.

One of the case's investigators, Elizabeth Bascom, says the victim was 13 years old:

"This was a child. You know, 13, turning 14-year-old child who worked through her birthday as if it did not exist. Who worked through Thanksgiving while we sat at tables and enjoyed our families, who worked through Christmas like it wasn't even there, like, how do you explain how horrific that would be for a child to not have any of that?"

Bascom says children who end up sexually exploited are often those who are vulnerable to manipulation.

"It's a symbol of giving you something you need: money for your family to buy food, clothing that your parents can't afford to buy you, shoes. There's a romancing period to it, and then the manipulation starts to turn to something more forceful and more sinister. And then they can keep you there by threatening members of your family or their survival, or if a child gets hooked on drugs, they always have that over them," Bascom says.

TPD is not releasing where the girl was being trafficked or how she became a victim. Police Chief Lawrence Revell suspects there are more victims and urges residents to call TPD if they suspect someone is being trafficked.