LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – News 3 is learning new details regarding a multi-agency human trafficking operation that led to at least three arrests in Lee County over the weekend.
District Attorney Brandon Hughes says the undercover operation of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was to rescue women forced into the sex trade. Over the weekend, 28-year-old Ashley Cason, 36-year-old Paul Howell, and 56-year old Victoria Rowe were charged in Lee County with Human Trafficking 2nd degree.
Court documents allege Cason, Howell, and Rowe were paid to transport women from Montgomery to Lee County to commit a sex act for money. Investigators allege Howell drove one woman, who was eight months pregnant and smoked meth with her on the way.
“A large part of this is tied into drug addiction, these people that get them supply these girls with a supply of drugs and keep them from being able to do anything,” explained Lee County District Attorney, Brandon Hughes.
District Attorney Brandon Hughes says more arrests are pending as investigators work to identify and get help for victims. At this time, Hughes can’t disclose the location of the undercover operation.
“I can’t go into any details about how we went about doing this simply because we don’t want to put the bad guys on notice of this is what we do, and this is how we do it. Victims who are forced into this sexual servitude are the targets. These are the people we are working to find, rescue them, and get them out of very dangerous situations,” said Hughes.
Hughes says children victims were not involved in this weekend’s operation. Lee County is a prime location for sex trafficking because it’s home to a significant university and nestled alongside the Interstate 85 corridor.
“Not many of these cases involve kidnapping, some of them do, but victims mainly fall into with the wrong people, and they don’t realize what they are getting themselves into until it is too late. They are told they are not worth anything, and that’s how the control is maintained, and often they have so much fear there is not a point where they feel safe to speak up and get help,” said Hughes.
Hughes says the investigation is ongoing. Hughes says, along with helping victims, investigators are working to disrupt trafficking operations and bring those in charge of justice.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: VISIT THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
The Blue Campaign is a national public awareness campaign designed to educate the public, law enforcement, and other industry partners to recognize human trafficking indicators and how to respond to possible cases appropriately. Blue Campaign works closely with DHS Components to create general awareness training and materials for law enforcement and others to increase the detection of human trafficking, and to identify victims.