NASHVILLE (WATE) - Two young women claim they were held against their will for days, victims of sex trafficking, at a motel on the outskirts of downtown Nashville.
Prontiss Houseworth, 18, of Conyers, Georgia, is charged with trafficking for sexual servitude and promoting prostitution.
6 News Anchor Lori Tucker and Photojournalist Steve Coy traveled to Nashville for the story. They found out this crime began and ended with an ad on www.backpage.com, a website designed to replace Craigslist after authorities put the spotlight on it for its adult content.
On Friday, August 26, Nashville Metro Vice officers answered an ad on backpage.com.
"I asked her 'how much are the girls, how much it would be,'" an officer told WATE's sister station in Nashville, WKRN. "And they agreed to perform sex on me for $180 plus a $20 tip."
It wasn't long before undercover agents descended upon the Nashville motel at the address in the ad. There were four young women inside the motel room, but only two are considered victims.
"The other two appear to be complicit in this crime. They were recruiters to entice these girls," said Derri Smith, executive director of End Slavery Tennessee. "Allegedly one of the recruiters in this case posted the girls' ads with false names on backpage.com."
Smith said human trafficking, the modern day form of slavery, is more common than people may think. It also crosses socioeconomic lines.
"They actually have manuals for how to groom a victim and make them into a pliable commodity," explained Smith.
In this case, according to the arrest affidavit, Houseworth was taken into custody and accused of forcing the women to work for him as prostitutes.
"The girls stated they'd been taken against their will from Atlanta, Georgia. They'd been put in the back of a car, child locks had been put on, they were forced to do prostitution activities," said one Nashville officer on the case.
The women testified in court that the alleged recruiter was one of their friends who lured them into a trap.
The alleged victims claimed they were locked in the motel room for four days, providing sex to several men who answered the backpage ads. They said they begged each one to go get help for them, but no one did.
Officers said the two were actually excited to see police and that they were trying to get out of the situation.
"(They were) praying to God somebody would save them from it," added one Nashville officer.