• 9 Investigates: Human trafficking happening in Charlotte

    By: Natalie Pasquarella

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Human trafficking is happening in Charlotte, and some cases involve children.

    Neet Childs said she remembers when her reality was broken. At 16, a 38-year-old man befriended her at her job.

    “A person comes to you and tells you that they can come to you and they can provide better for you, they can be your support,” Childs said.

    The man gave her rides home and, a year later, she said he offered her money for sex.

    “I felt betrayed, you know, I didn't think that that could happen to me,” Childs said.

    From there, she said, things got worse, and she was sold for sex.

    “Lawyers, doctors, businessmen, police officers -- the people that we trust with our lives,” Childs said.

    She said she felt controlled and trapped -- a common thread in human trafficking cases.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office defines human trafficking as a commercial sex act involving a minor, or an adult forced or coerced into sex.

    At-risk girls are common victims, as are women brought to the U.S. with a promise of jobs and citizenship.

    Right now, there are seven to 10 open human trafficking cases in Charlotte. The office acknowledged cases involving children but wouldn’t elaborate.

    In January, Filemon Guzman-Martinez, a Mexican national, pleaded guilty to sex trafficking in Charlotte. Court documents said he ran a brothel on Southampton Road.

    State Attorney General Roy Cooper wants more public awareness.

    “We know that human trafficking is a big business,” he said. “We know that people are making a lot of money.”

    Charlotte is a transportation hub with close proximity to major highways. Traffickers can pick up and go with their victims, making it hard to find and prosecute them.

    When events like the DNC and other sporting events come to town, attracting thousands of people, there's concern of increased trafficking.

    “When there's more money to be made, people are going to take advantage of it, and that's what this is about. This is a $32 billion industry,” said Charity Magnuson, who runs the nonprofit NC Stop.

    She said traffickers often drive carfuls of women in for big events.

    NC Stop’s goal is to train hotel workers.

    “Train them on, what is human trafficking? What does it look like and what do you do as hotel staff,” Magnuson said.

    As for Childs, now four years out of the sex trade -- she started a baking business to help others.

    “I'm starting a movement to support young women and prevent young women from getting into it,” she said.

    She works with nonprofits like NC Stop to bring women to her kitchen and show them that there are other options.

    “It's getting the message out about this being an issue amongst young women, and how can we prevent it? How can we stop it?” Childs said.

    There will, of course, be a massive security presence in Charlotte during the convention.

    In Denver, the site of the last convention, officials said they did not see an increase in trafficking arrests then.

    To learn more about Neet Child’s catering business/nonprofit to help trafficking victims, click here.

    For more information on NC Stop Human Trafficking, click here.

    The nonprofit Compassion To Act is holding an expo on human trafficking on Friday, May 11. Click here for more information.

    For more information on human trafficking from the FBI, click here for the website.

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