Deputies rescued three potential human trafficking victims in separate cases during a 24-hour period this weekend and arrested one man on a felony trafficking of a minor charge, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said.
"In the last 24 hours, our patrol deputies have recused 3 women during their trafficking interdiction during traffic stops," McNamara said. "We are proud of our guys for being observant and checking these traffic stops out to result in the women being rescued from being trafficked."
A deputy stopped William James Ortiz, 41, of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, at about 10:35 p.m. Monday in the 500 block of Loop 340 in Bellmead for a traffic violation, and a 17-year-old girl riding with him appeared to be intoxicated, according to an arrest affidavit.
Ortiz and the girl gave different accounts of where they were going and how they knew each other, Detective Joseph Scaramucci said. Deputies found $200 cash and condoms in the girl's purse, and she told them she was homeless and that Ortiz had given her the money in exchange for sex, according to the affidavit.
She also showed investigators messages between her and Ortiz indicating he had responded to an online ad featuring the girl and had made plans to pay her in exchange for sex, Scaramucci said. Though Texas treats 17-year-old offenders as adults for prosecution, it considers 17-year-old trafficking victims minors, he said.
Ortiz was arrested on a first-degree felony charge of trafficking of minor person. He had been released from McLennan County Jail by Tuesday on bond listed at $75,000.
Earlier Monday, deputies stopped a 24-year-old man at about 5 p.m. on Interstate 35 in Lorena for a traffic violation. Deputies found evidence indicating a 19-year-old woman riding with the man was being trafficked, Scaramucci said.
The man was arrested on unrelated charges, and deputies are investigating the potential of trafficking, he said.
Deputies received a suspicious person call at about 10 p.m. Sunday about a woman seen exiting a car then lingering nearby on Beaver Lake Road. A 29-year-old woman there told deputies she had been involved in human trafficking but "was trying to get out of it" and did not have a place to stay, Scaramucci said.
Unbound, a nonprofit focused on human trafficking, assisted the sheriff's office in providing resources for the three women. McNamara said all three cases remain under investigation, but he is proud of the deputies who recognized signs of trafficking and took action.
"This is what sets us apart from other agencies that I've seen, and when our patrol deputies see something that is a little off, they contact us and all work it together," Scaramucci said. "We all grew up in this trafficking world together, and it really is a department effort all the time."