The presence of an alleged cult on the Big Island appears to have heightened awareness of sex trafficking in Kaua‘i County.
On Monday, Kaua‘i Police Department took to Facebook to dispel a rumor that had been circulating on social media for the past week where the individual stated they received information that a mafia group was on Kaua‘i kidnapping girls between the ages of 16-40 for sex trafficking.
“We can confirm that we do not have any reported incidents or knowledge of incidents like this occurring on Kaua‘i,” KPD stated in its Facebook post.
Dear friends,Regarding the below post that continues to circulate across social media, we can confirm that we do not…
Posted by Kaua’i Police Department on Monday, June 22, 2020
KPD’s Investigative Services Bureau Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce said he isn’t exactly clear where this heightened concern of sex trafficking stems from.
“It could have originated from rumors circulating on social media after arrests were made of the alleged cult group on the Big Island,” Ponce said.
The self-proclaimed leader of Carbon Nation Eligio Lee Bishop, also known as “Nature Boy,” and his 20 members were taken into custody on June 10 and June 11 for violating the state-mandated 14-day quarantine in place for COVID-19. According to the Hawai‘i Police Department, the group was seen at a beach park the day they arrived at Hilo International Airport.
Bishop and all members of the group agreed to return to the mainland and were put on planes to Los Angeles days after their arrest.
“If it wasn’t for the local community and bringing it to our attention, we may not have heard about it,” said Hawai‘i County Prosecutor Mitch Roth.
Additionally, the Big Island community has raised concerns about the number of missing children and runaway reports. During a Hawaii County Council Committee last week, testifiers expressed concerns about sex trafficking.
Umeke’s owner Nakoa Pabre has organized a community meeting this week to raise awareness so people know that “yes this is happening and what can we do help.”
The meeting will take place on Wednesday in the new Umeke’s location by Kona Brewing Company Pub in Old Industrial Park.
Ponce said it would be naïve for any law enforcement agency in this day and age to say that sex/human trafficking does not exist or ever existed in their jurisdiction.
“However, that being said, whenever KPD is notified or discovers any case of human/sex trafficking, KPD takes it very seriously and does its best to promptly mitigate and curtail these illegal activities,” Ponce said.