CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A human trafficking suspect accused of taking a 17-year-old from Charlotte to Miami and forcing her into drugs and prostitution faced a judge Thursday.
The judge ruled the case will be handled in south Florida.
Federal documents say Willie Obadiah used fear, drugs and sex abuse to control the 17-year-old until other women with him helped the teenager escape.
He's facing a long list of charges related to trafficking a minor for sex.
Officials say the girl ran away from her foster home in Greensboro in February and eventually met Obadiah through Facebook, which experts say is a common tactic.
"That is probably one of the most common tactics of bringing in especially young people into trafficking," Alexa Nagy from Lily Pad Haven said.
Nagy said social media has become a dominant tool used by predators to lure people into trafficking.
"Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world," Nagy said. "They know exactly what they are doing. They know how to lure people in and they are successful at it."
A federal complaint says the teen thought Obadiah was picking her up to go to Miami, "where she would just smoke and walk on the beach."
The complaint says Obadiah immediately took the teen to a hotel in Charlotte and advertised her prostitution services online.
It's a story Hannah Arrowood hears time and time again. Her ministry helps young sex trafficking victims.
"Even though they may not want to participate in the activity that they're being asked to do, there is a connection with these people," Arrowood said.
The victim told investigators Obadiah said she was, "now a part of his family," and she feared for her safety.
The victim was allegedly forced into sex three times in Charlotte. Then they drove to Miami, picking up four other women along the way.
The complaint says the victim was given pills, including opioids, and forced into more sex. It says she was also sexually assaulted by Obadiah.
Officials say when he finally left her alone with the other girls who came to Miami, they found out her age and took her to a relative’s house.
Arrowood says it was an extremely bold move if those women were also captive.
"There's potentially backlash for them in the helping and there could be violence or there could be some sort of assault,” Arrowood said.
From there, investigators found out where Obadiah was and arrested him.
After we reported on Obadiah's arrest on Wednesday, numerous women reached out to Channel 9 saying they had received messages from him.
One woman, an accomplished blogger, spoke to Eyewitness News reporter Stephanie Tinoco about the comments he would leave.
"Like 'If you had $40, what type of date would you plan?' And, just make this things that sound really good like picnic and wine and for people looking to date, that kind of verbage is attractive," Tatayanne Wilson said.
Obadiah had a detention hearing Thursday that lasted about two minutes. His next court appearance has not been set.
Obadiah requested a court appointed attorney and the representative said they had no comment on the case.
If he’s convicted, he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison.
Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com:
© 2020 Cox Media Group