HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida sheriff announced the completion of two undercover human trafficking investigations Thursday which led to one person being rescued and five others being arrested.
Back on Dec. 4, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said detectives came in contact with an 18-year-old human trafficking victim during a traffic stop in Tampa.
While conducting an operation at a nearby hotel, detectives saw multiple men going to and from a room that the victim and 28-year-old Paige Ashley Fried were leaving. After developing probable cause, Chronister said detectives conducted the traffic stop on Fried’s vehicle and arrested her for possession of illegal drugs. The victim had an outstanding warrant for grand theft and was also arrested.
“These individuals are truly the worst of the worst. They were either actively selling another human being or seeking sex with a child,” Chronister said. “I can promise you, we will not stop targeting human trafficking until we put a stop to this despicable trade in Hillsborough County.”
Detectives also learned that from Oct. 20 to Dec. 4, Fried used force, fraud, and coercion to manipulate the victim to perform sexual acts at various locations within the county, according to deputies.
“It’s very likely that this arrest saved her life,” Chronister said referring to the victim.
Chronister said Fried would organize the encounters by posting sexual advertisements about the victim on adult escort websites. According to the victim, Fried received all of the money gained from these encounters.
Despite knowing the victim contracted a sexually transmitted disease, Fried continued to force her to perform commercial sexual acts and ingest narcotics to stay awake longer in order to work more, Chronister said.
“I can’t emphasize enough that this young woman is the textbook definition of a human trafficking victim,” said Chronister. “Thanks to her having the courage to speak up, Paige Fried is now in jail facing a felony charge for human trafficking.”
The victim was later released from custody and deputies connected her with resources through Selah Freedom, an organization that assists human trafficking survivors.
Chronister also mentioned four additional people were arrested during a separate investigation from Dec. 17 and 18.
He said detectives communicated with the four men through an internet prostitution website and an online app often used by predators to chat with minors anonymously.
Andres Dario Betancur, 36, and Rudy Siam, 40, each thought they were chatting with a 14-year-old male online and traveled to meet him for sex at an undisclosed location off Highway 301 and Interstate 4 in Hillsborough County, deputies say.
Timothy John Matthews, 56, and Carl Franklin Bergman, 58, believed they were communicating with a 14-year-old female and traveled to meet her at the same undisclosed location. Bergman, who offered to pay the teen $100 in exchange for sex, was found to have a satchel carrying a concealed firearm and a condom inside his vehicle at the time of the arrest.
All four men are facing multiple charges, including traveling to meet a minor to solicit illegal acts.
In honor of National Human Trafficking Month, Chronister has released a public service announcement to help teach citizens how to spot victims of human trafficking.
The PSA can be viewed in the video player below.
If you know someone who you suspect is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
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