Agents see increase in human trafficking cases around Charlotte

Agents see increase in human trafficking cases

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that Charlotte is among the top cities in the country with the most arrests for human trafficking.

“We call it a living nightmare,” said Chris Healy, assistant special agent in charge.

Healey oversees nearly 50 Homeland Security agents who work around the clock to stop human trafficking in the Carolinas and said they have seen an increase in cases.

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New data reveals in the 2019 fiscal year, the number of cases nationwide jumped 38%.

Charlotte agents arrested 125 human trafficking suspects and rescued 30 local victims.

Zerrell Ross Fuentes is spending 30 years in prison for forcing three children into prostitution and sex trafficking in Myrtle Beach to help bail him out of jail.

Last year, police arrested the owner of Luxury Nail Salon in Davidson, who was accused of human trafficking and forced labor.

“They were beaten,” Healy said. “They were beaten. Their identification was taken from them. They were also incurred with $180,000 debt. We all have bills to pay but 1$80,000, that's servitude.”

Benjenus Jenkins, with Lily Pad Haven helps human trafficking survivors.

“We help with transitional housing, working on restoring and healing and preparing for the next step in their lives,” Jenkins said.

One reason Charlotte is a hub for human trafficking is because interstates 77 and 85 lead to shipping ports, officials said.

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