Human sex trafficking, right under your nose
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) —
It's the worst kind of crime and too often it's happening in plain sight or right next door.
Runaway kids here in the US, and victims from South and Central America-- forced into the sex trade.
Right now a Riviera Beach man is behind bars. He is the latest major arrest in the county.
36 year old Andre Benjamin is charged with Human Sex traffiking.
PBSO says he was running a "trap house" where teenage girls and women were forced into having sex with men-- that house was also a drug den and a 15-year-old girl was being used as a drug dealer.
Here are some fast facts about human sex trafficking.
The National Human Traffiking hotline receives an average of 100 calls per day.
Florida ranks third in the nation for trafficking activity.
Since launching a new collaboration between PBSO and the Catholic Charities in September, 10 victims in PALM BEACH COUNTY have been removed from human trafficking circles.
And officials say thats just scratching the surface.
CBS 12 is investigating the crime pattern and getting an inside look from a crime fighter, a former cop turned private eye whose mission in life is getting these victims off the street.
His stories about his undercover work and his videos -- are so disturbing because sex slavery is not taking place in abandoned warehouses, its happening in shopping plazas, maybe the one you visit every day.
"One [case] was in a shopping plaza five doors down from a state representative's office, the other one was 10 feet away from a girls ballet studio."
John Rody is a private investigator now, but for more than 20 years, he worked in the vice squads for Metro Dade police and Hialeah PD.
Many of his current cases involve busting suspected human sex traffiking rings.
One that he's particularly proud of-- where he intervened just in the nick of time-- involved a runaway teenaged girl from Naples. She was being held for over a week inside of a motel room.
"She was in so much fear for her life and this gentleman told her 'don't call anybody don't you leave the room, we have a guy at the elevator who's gonna watch you, so you can't escape,' she even thought about jumping out the window, but she's on the fourth floor window so of course she couldn't do that," Rody said.
John posed as a customer, got to the room, got police to the scene, she was reunited with her family, her captor arrested.
"We were able to rescue her, I would say another couple of weeks, they would've found her in the morgue," Rody said.
Rody showed us some videos of other sting operations he has lead--going into south Florida businesses.
In the videos, the girls are naked, offering sex, they advertise on Backpage.com.
Sometimes the girls go out with their handlers, John says they sometimes get a dinner at a restaurant. Maybe to meet a client or maybe because they can't be left alone--
"16 or 17 years old, with an adult and the adult seems to be controlling, very possessive of that person-- that may be a signal that somethings not right," Rody said.
If you see something like that, call and report it: The National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1 (888) 373-7888
When victims are rescued, they can find help through the Catholic charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach.
And something we learned thats important, if the victims were brought or came to the United States illegally, they can get protection, to avoid deportation. The diocese is helping 3 victims in Palm Beach County in that very situation.