Unfortunately, a large number of people in the United States are prone to the assumption that se- trafficking is a nightmare that is only found in third-world countries and movies, yet this could not be farther from reality. In fact, research has shown that nine out of ten individuals fail to recognize the warning signs of se- trafficking.
With the huge number of dangerous apps and social media sites where predators can pretend to be our kids’ friends, the risk of se- trafficking coming into our own homes is higher than ever.
Thankfully, one fast-acting American Airlines worker had her eye out for the telltale signs that two teens at the airports were in danger, likely saving them from captivity.
Denice, a customer service representative for the airline, sensed something was off when a 15 and 17-year-old girl showed up with one-way tickets with no identification or adult companions. Their first-class tickets had also been purchased by someone with a fraudulent credit card, further adding to what the employee perceived as a fishy situation.
“Between the two of them, they had a bunch of small bags,” said Denice. “It seemed to me as if they were running away from home. They kept looking at each other in a way that seemed fearful and anxious. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right.”
Following her gut instinct, Denice refused to let the teens board the plane and called the Sheriff’s Department’s Airport Bureau. The girls then went over to Starbucks and made a phone call to “Drey,” a man who authorities later discovered they met on Instagram. Drey had offered to buy the girls round-trip tickets and pay them $2,000 to do some modeling and music videos.
They quickly agreed to the tempting deal and told their parents they were staying at each other’s houses.
“When I told them that they didn’t have a flight home, that’s when it kind of sunk in that maybe I was actually telling the truth,” said the officer who responded to the call, Deputy Todd. “In my opinion, what was going to happen was that they were going to become victims of se- trafficking. They said they wouldn’t have let that happen, and I said they probably wouldn’t have had a choice.”
Drey deleted all of his social media accounts within minutes of receiving the call from the girls, and his phone line also stopped working, alerting authorities even further to an online predatory scheme.
Thankfully, the teens were able to head safely home with their parents that night, though Todd believes their fate could have been much different if they boarded that plane.
“I’m very, very thankful Ms. Denice with American Airlines was able to use her intuition and concern and actually say something,” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have been called, and we wouldn’t have intervened with these girls. She probably really was their miracle that day, whether they want to believe it or not.”