A California Uber driver is being credited with saving a 16-year-old girl from a child sex trafficking ring, thanks to his attentive ears and quick thinking, NBC News is reporting.
On Monday, Keith Avila was working his shift in Sacramento when he picked up a fare — two women and a teenage girl — and drove them to a nearby Holiday Inn.
During the drive, Avila overheard the women talking plainly and openly about their plans to deliver the teenage girl to a “John” (a term used to describe the client in a prostitution transaction) and get money from him, according to KXTV (Sacramento).
“She starts coaching and saying, ‘OK when we get there the first thing you’re gonna do is give the guy a hug and you’re gonna ask if he has any weapons.'”
Once they arrived at the hotel, Avila called the police, alerting them that he had witnessed a case of human trafficking in the act.
A short time later, Elk Grove police arrived at the scene. After sorting things out, cops made three arrests: 25-year-old Destiny Pettway and 31-year-old Maria Westley, who allegedly trafficked the young girl to the hotel room, and 20-year-old Disney Vang, who was the alleged “John” the girl was being delivered to.
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Pettaway and Westley were arrested and charged with pimping and pandering and held on $500,000. Vang was arrested on suspicions of sexual activity with a minor and has since been released, for reasons that are not clear as of this writing.
As it turns out, the girl was a 16-year-old runaway who had somehow fallen in with human traffickers. She has since been placed in “alternative housing” until her relatives can be contacted.
Chris Trim, of the Elk Grove Police Department, says it’s shameful that adults would use a young person who is vulnerable.
“This is very serious. You have a 16-year-old that is being manipulated by these two individuals to perform sex acts.”
In fact, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, children and teens who run away from home are particularly at risk for being victims of human trafficking.
“Runaway and homeless youth lack a strong supportive network and runaway to unfamiliar environments are particularly at risk of trafficking. Runaway youth are often approached by traffickers at transportation hubs, shelters or other public spaces. These traffickers pretend to be a boyfriend or significant other, using feigned affection and manipulation to elicit commercial sex or services from the victim.”
For Keith Avila, he never once believed that his career as an Uber driver would put him in the position of stopping human trafficking in the act. He says the worst he feared was a possible drunk throwing up in his car.
“The worst thing I thought would happen when driving Uber is that I would be getting drunk passengers and I would have to handle them. All my life, I thought about people throwing up in the car as the worst scenario.”
Meanwhile, Uber has reached out to Avila to thank him for his actions.
“Maintaining the platform as a safe and comfortable place for both riders and driver partners is very important to us, and any incident that disrupts that experience for either party is one we take very seriously.”
[Featured Image by GongTo/Shutterstock]