Detective helped nab man who allegedly forced girl into prostitution
An undercover Albuquerque police detective was honored Friday for rescuing a teenage girl forced into prostitution.
Detective Matthew Vollmer,who has been with the department since 2006, was honored by Mayor Richard J. Berry and named a Friday’s Hero after he helped nab a man suspected of forcing the 17-year-old girl into prostitution, using the Internet to attract clients.
“His (Vollmer’s) actions last week had a lifelong impact for one young lady in the city of Albuquerque,” Berry said.
Vollmer tracked down 22-year-old Kendel Morrell after the girl went to police, according to a criminal complaint.
The girl told police the man she knew as “Ty” had offered her a job selling magazines several weeks before. Morrell had contacted the girl through Facebook. The two kept in touch, but no job came through.
Two weeks later, Morrell, who has a criminal history, called the girl and told her she needed to answer a cell phone he had gotten for her. The girl realized Morrell had also posted her profile on backpage.com, a popular website for online prostitution, according to the complaint.
Police say Morrell threatened the girl, saying he would have friends “take care of her” if she didn’t work for him.
On one occasion, Morrell took the girl to a house where police say he tried to sell her to a group of men, the complaint states. The selling price was $3,000 for three nights, but the men decided against it.
Morrell is also suspected of forcing the girl to have sex with men who found her online for $150, police said.
At one point, Morrell forced the girl to have sex with him, the complaint states. A day later, she contacted police.
Vollmer tracked Morrell to his southeast Albuquerque home on Oct. 1 and issued a warrant for his arrest the next day.
Morrell was charged with human trafficking, rape and sexual exploitation of a child, according to court records. He was booked at the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he remains on a no-bond hold.
Police say online prostitution is steadily increasing.
In fact, almost half of the prostitutes caught in a recent APD Vice sting had posted services online, police said. Prostitutes who post online are typically younger and make more money than streetwalking prostitutes, police say.
Police catch prostitutes who advertise online by setting up “dates” with them via the Web and going undercover to meet them at a hotel. They say 20 to 30 new women appear each day on backpage.com.
At a news conference Friday, Police Chief Ray Schultz said the case has grown and now involves the FBI and the state Attorney General’s Office. He said police have obtained computer forensics evidence against Morrell, who may have had other victims.
“This is just another example of great police work,” Schultz said.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal