Cuyahoga County

Hotel worker alerts police to human trafficking

7/14/2016

Ohio ranks 5th in the country for the number of trafficking cases. The Republican National Convention is expected to lure more of the illegal activity right to our doorstep.

Investigators are cracking down and they're also trying to raise public awareness.  In one recent case, that awareness may have saved a life.

Outreach groups have been traveling to hotels specifically to raise awareness among front desk staff. Volunteers explain what to look for when it comes to trafficking victims: young girls with older men, girls that won't look you in the eye.

An investigator with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office says a recent sex trafficking bust was started by an alert hotel worker.

"Saw a 15 year old girl in the lobby at 3am, it was a red flag and this hotel worker didn't blow it off. They took it seriously and confronted her and the story didn't line up," explains Brian Vigneaux, Senior Investigator with the Human Trafficking Unit for the Prosecutor’s Office.

36-year-old Reginald Williams was eventually arrested and charged with trafficking two, 15-year-old girls. He allegedly posted the girls in ads on backpage.com. Investigators say he then took the victims to meet clients at Cleveland area hotels.

Vigneaux applauds the hotel employee for calling the police.  The investigator came out of retirement for this position with the County Prosecutor's Human Trafficking Unit. For him, rescuing victims has become more than just a job.

"People who get involved in this get a passion for it. I speak to women and let them know, I’m on their side and I'm after the beast that is exploiting, using and manipulating them."

Vigneaux says because hotels are booked for the RNC, he’s expecting more activity with victims being called to hotels.  He says investigators are aware, they're watching and they're ready to make arrests.


Watch video at Cleveland19.com