NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – A 13-year-old girl has been reunited with her parents after being rescued from an alleged sex-trafficking situation in Terrytown.
The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office alleges the young girl was forced to have sex more than 10 times, arranged online by a Texas man and woman.
The smell of weed wafting out of an open door at the La Quinta Inn on Terry Parkway is what detectives say caught their attention.
Inside was the 13-year-old girl as well as Chelsea Gee, 18, from Houston and a man investigators say was the pimp, Randi Lewis, 33, of Missouri, Texas.
JPSO says Lewis had the two of them take photos of themselves which he posted to a website used for prostitution.
The girl was coerced into 10 to 20 sexual arrangements, according to investigators, all while Lewis and Gee stood outside the motel room.
Lewis allegedly collected the money and kept the room keys. Neither Gee nor the 13-year-old were allowed to leave the room without him.
The girl told detectives she was scared of Lewis who also allegedly gave her marijuana, which they found in the room along with ecstasy and several cell phones.
“Here in Louisiana, you have port cities, we have interstates that go between states and we also have New Orleans, which is a tourist town, with out of town folks who are coming in to party, there’s a higher demand for sex,” Maria Isabella Pontoriero with the New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services reports in 2019 there were 806 sex trafficking victims, 543 were juveniles and 106 were under the age of 12.
Last year, there were 712 victims, 530 were juveniles and 93 were under the age of 12.
“A lot of time the children are not happy to be recovered because they’re going to be put back in the same place that they just ran away from and these cases are so complex, so they’re hard to investigate and prosecute, especially when you have a victim who’s not ready to disclose or cooperate,” Pontoriero said.
Pontoriero is a human trafficking social worker and forensic interviewer. She says the numbers don’t even represent the full scope of what’s really happening, often leaving out LGBTQ as well as male-identifying victims.
“A lot of times, survivors of human trafficking have experienced prior sexual violence prior physical violence,” Pontoriero said.
Pontoriero says we need to create safe environments where children can come to an adult when they are being propositioned or abused.
That’s why the state just created The Human Trafficking Prevention Commission this year because there’s a gap in early intervention as well as support services.
“We go out and we do this recovery, but we forget that we need to place the child somewhere safe and get them into services once we do recover them.”
In this case, JPSO says the girl has been reunited with family and her alleged abusers are still in custody.
Lewis and Gee were booked with trafficking a child for sexual purposes. If found guilty, they could be facing at least 25 years, but up to 50.
Lewis is also facing multiple drug charges. His bond is set at $165,000, While Gee’s is $100,000.
Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services: 1-855-452-5437
National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)
National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1-800-786-2929
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-786-2929
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