Trooper who rescued teen from sex trafficking explains what happenedPosted: Updated:
Arizona Department of Public Safety officials say a traffic stop near Kingman resulted in the rescue of a 16-year-old girl who was being sold for sex.
They say the teen was in the company of a man and woman when their vehicle was stopped by DPS Trooper Jonathan Otto on U.S. 93 east of Kingman on Jan. 11.
Otto had clocked the car at more than 100 mph as it sped north toward Las Vegas.
He said the first thing he noticed when he walked up to the vehicle to talk to the occupants was "the overwhelming odor of perfume." He also noticed that the adult woman in the front passenger seat was "dressed very scantily."
"She was actually wearing lingerie," he said. "That's something I've never encountered on a regular traffic stop before."
He also saw the teen was in the back seat.
Once the smell of perfume dissipated, Otto noticed a new pervasive odor emanating from the car-- marijuana.
The driver denied having marijuana with him but said he had smoked it in the car a couple of days earlier.
At that point, Otto got everybody out the vehicle and went about identifying the woman and the teen.
Otto said the teen, who was "not wearing a lot of clothes," was not carrying ID, but she told him her name and said she was 18.
Otto put the trio in the back of his vehicle and began searching the car. That's when he "noticed a lot of indicators of sex trafficking," including a document from a children's court in California. It had the teen's name on it.
Turning up nothing but "debris" with his search, Otto then ran the names of the woman and teen. That's when he learned the girl was 16 -- not 18.
"With the indications of sexual trafficking and then knowing that she was a juvenile now, I separated her from the adults and questioned her about her date of birth," Otto explained.
The teen, he said, continued to insist that she was 18 and was not a runaway. She said she had been kicked out of her house.
Asking about her guardians, Otto learned that the most recent person with whom the girl had stayed was her grandmother. Otto contacted the grandmother and learned more about the teen, including that was was indeed a runaway and was not supposed to be in Arizona or with any adults. He also learned that "there was a chance of prostitution being involved in this case."
Armed with new information, he spoke to teen again.
"She again denied everything, said she was OK," he said.
Otto, however, knew that she was not.
"I feel like I gave her a chance to get away from this situation," he said.
Among the things he noticed about the girl was that she appeared malnourished, had "makeup caked onto her face," and very little luggage in the car.
It was later determined that the teen had been taken from Southern California, trafficked in Arizona and was on her way to be trafficked in Las Vegas.
"She had come from a poverty-stricken life, and this was a way to make quick money," Otto said. "She was trying to get away from her impoverished life. ... I'm just glad was able to intercept her.
"I believe she got into the prostitution world when she was 15, last year," he continued. "She had gone missing from San Diego in November. ... At that time, I believe these two adults from Vegas had gone out to California and picked her up and took her back to Las Vegas."
The suspects have been identified as Rasheen Adams and Chicha Harris, both 23 and from Las Vegas. Adams and Harris have been charged with three felonies each, including custodial interference, sex trafficking of a minor and theft of means of transportation.
Investigators believe Adams and Harris connected with the teen through common friends. Otto said he believed the pair knew how old the girl was before he pulled them over on Jan. 11.
"Across the State of Arizona, the Department of Public Safety works tirelessly with federal, state, and local agencies to combat and prevent human trafficking and sex crimes" Col. Ken Hunter, the assistant DPS director, said in a news release. "The arrests made on January 11, 2017, are the result of an experienced trooper utilizing advanced training in the Interdiction for the Protection of Children and criminal interdiction techniques. In this case, our trooper rescued a juvenile victim from continued exploitation and abuse in three states. As an agency, DPS is committed to protecting the innocent and bringing to justice those who would exploit and harm others through human and sex trafficking."
"I'm very proud of this stop," Otto, a father himself, said. "It's something you don't encounter all of the time in traffic patrol. I know a lot of people think we just make speeding tickets and enforce the traffic laws, but there's a lot more that we can get into."
His advice to others who might be in the same situation as that teen girl?
"Seek help," he said. "If you're around law enforcement or someone that can give you help, speak up. ... We're out there trying to help whoever we can that needs it."
Otto said the teen is back in California.
[RELATED: Surviving the sex trade (June 28, 2016)]
[ONLINE: How to help fight human trafficking]
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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