A sex trade ring in which young girls were allegedly pistol-whipped and forced from their homes into sexual slavery was broken up in Houston this week and several suspects are in custody.
Five people, including a former Houston police officer, were arrested in the largest sex trafficking case in Texas' southern district, MyFOXHouston.com reported. A sixth remains on the run.
John Butler, 47, William Hornbeak, 34, Jamine Lake, 27, Andre McDaniels, 39, and Kristen Land, 28, all of Houston, as well as Tulsa, Okla., resident Ronnie Presley, 35, are named as suspects in the case.
All are charged with conspiracy to traffic women and children for the purposes of commercialized sex; sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; and other offenses, according to the station.
The five Houston residents were arrested Monday and Tuesday; Presley is still at large, MyFOXHouston.com reported.
Butler was a Houston police officer for a brief period in the 1980s, sources told the station.
The sting was the result of a joint investigation by local and federal authorities.
“It is a horrible reflection on our society when adults prey on the vulnerabilities of children and reduce them to indentured sex slaves,” U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson said in a prepared statement.
The suspects allegedly used businesses like massage parlors, modeling studios and health spas to disguise their sex trade business, according to the 16-count indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
Women and teens as young as 16 were among the victims allegedly coerced into prostitution and regularly beaten and threatened, according to the U.S. attorney's statement.