ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Underage teens being sold for sex out of a room in a St. Louis County Renaissance Hotel, turned out to be missing juveniles from Texas.
Court records indicate the 16 and 17 year old victims are wards of the Texas Department of Children and Family Services, which had reported them missing from the Dallas area.
The girls were rescued in February by U.S. Marshals and a special regional St. Louis County Police Task Force.
“Unfortunately, there are opportunities for traffickers, considering the I-70 corridor and proximity to the airport, that sexual traffickers can take advantage of,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said.
Bell’s office charged Joemarius Green and Green’s girlfriend, Chantel Robinson, with sex trafficking the girls.
“When you’re dealing with children and seniors, yeah, that’s going to grind your gears even more, if you will, and this is no exception to that,” Bell said.
Court records indicate they also stayed in Kansas City, Missouri, prior and that they placed ads on escort service web sites the included pictures of the minors online.
“I tip my hat to the investigative work by St. Louis County police and, obviously, we’re going to do everything we can to make certain that we hold these individuals accountable,” Bell said.
It’s unclear from the court record how police uncovered the operation, but Bell said civilians are a crucial part of detecting these crimes.
“I’ll say it again: our public is always our first line of defense,” he said. “Most individuals who are inclined to commit crimes are not going to do it in front of an officer.”
FOX 2 was there when advocates in Jefferson City spoke out last year about the need for more awareness.
“For the past five years, we are trying to get into schools and educate the students and educators about human trafficking,” Shima Rostami, director of Gateway Human Trafficking, said.
The St. Louis County Police Special Investigations Unit operates a multi-jurisdictional task force that focuses on child exploitation, handling cases in 49 counties in eastern Missouri. The department will even train civilians on what to look for if you ask.
“It is important that the public know and is educated about these kind of cases, because if you see something, we want you to say something,” Bell said. “But you need to know what you’re seeing.”
A spokesperson for the Renaissance Hotel said they could not comment on the investigation because it’s active, but that they are cooperating with police.