Tampa search warrant reveals juveniles targeted in West Palm Beach for sex trafficking

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - Law enforcement on both coasts of Florida are working to break a human trafficking ring targeting kids in West Palm Beach. 

A search warrant filed by the Tampa Police Department says two men brought two runaways from a West Palm Beach group home to the Studio 6 motel in West Palm Beach back in January. 

A sheriff's office detective said one of the runaways he interviewed said the men brought in four to give different men a night and charged them 40 to 55 dollars per session to have sex with one of the victims. 

The documents say when the juvenile needed a break, the man would beat and strangle the victim. 

Tampa police obtained search warrants to seize several cell phones that may have been used to target victims, possible Johns, and other pimps. 

The search warrant says they believe the pimps were recruiting victims using social media sites and then posting advertisements of them on escort sites like Backpage.com and Craig's List. 

The documents are heavily redacted so it is difficult to tell exactly how many victims were recruited in Palm Beach County. Both the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office refuse to say anything about the investigation. 

Last year Florida ranked third among the states with the most reported human trafficking cases, according to statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 6 of reported endangered runaways were likely victims of sex trafficking in 2016 and 86 percent of the victims were in the care of social services or foster care when they ran.

556 cases were reported in Florida last year. The state is still in third place among the states with the most reported cases this year, behind California and Texas. 

In December 2016, 19 women ages 20 to 35 were discovered to be victims of human trafficking after a ring bust by Fort Pierce police. 

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