Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Deputies with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Ghost Unit arrested three out of five suspects involved in a nationwide sex trafficking ring Thursday.
Detective Kyle Hartsock said Jason Jackson, 23, Andrew Wyatt, 28 and Chante Bickham, 24, were arrested in Albuquerque.
Arrest warrants have been filed for 54-year-old John Dompierre and Destiny Way, 20, who are still on the loose.
“We feel very confidant we will find the other two,” Hartsock said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
A sixth suspect, 23-year-old Camara Cherry-Amos was arrested in January at the start of the monthlong investigation.
Hartsock said all six were involved in a multi-state sex trafficking operation and face charges related to sex trafficking.
“Lots of people have all these different roles,” he said. “Some managed online ads sex workers are sold on, some are sex workers as well and they also helped manage this stuff.”
Hartsock said the operation was based out of Albuquerque but operated since Feb. 2017 in multiple states, including Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Florida and Maryland.
The group used at least twelve sex workers, including three juveniles–14 to 17 years old–from Albuquerque, advertising them on online sites like Backpage in different cities, he said.
Hartsock said the New Mexico Attorney General is currently prosecuting the case, but added the investigation is ongoing as detectives have identified other possible witnesses and suspects.
He said the Ghost Unit began its’ investigation in January after a social worker with the Children, Youth and Families Department said a mother reported her 16-year-old daughter as a run away and family members found sexually suggestive ads posted of her in Phoenix.
“That’s when the worker reached out to us,” Hartsock said.
From there, detectives found that Cherry-Amos had posted the ads multiple times in both New Mexico and in Arizona.
She was arrested and charged with human trafficking.
He said the juvenile, who is now in CYFD custody, was rescued in Phoenix within 24 hours after being a sex worker for 11 months.
Hartsock said the juvenile was initially coerced, and recruited, under the promise of a share of the profits in the operation.
“When you are 15-years-old and essentially homeless, you can’t really get a job that’s going to pay the bills to rent a room,” he said, noting that 85 percent of homeless kids will be sex trafficked. “You look for people that can help you, ideally stay safe, but a lot of these people just take advantage.”
Hartsock said, as in many cases, that initial promise eventually turns into “less profit” and “more control” over the victim, who is also being “constantly” given drugs and alcohol.
He said sex workers can be exposed to two to five strangers having sex with them every day putting them at further risk for physical injury and kidnapping, among other dangers.
Hartsock credited CYFD with going “above and beyond” to ensure the juvenile has as many resources needed to be successful following the ordeal.
CYFD Spokesman Henry Varela said CYFD has been working “very closely” with the Ghost Unit over the past year, holding training for social workers on signs to look for in human trafficking.
“It’s been a great collaborative partnership,” he said. “We were able to to help get a 16-year-old home safe.”