ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Two different Bay area sheriff's are targeting the website Backpage.com. They say it'sa haven for sex crimes and human trafficking.
On Sundayin Pinellas County, two men and a woman were arrested at the Knights Inn on 54th Avenue North in St. Petersburg.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says Donell Jenkins of St. Petersburg forced two young runaway girls to sell their bodies over a period of about a week.
Sheriff Gualtierisays,"She was to make as much money as she possibly could.When you're 15 years old and you don't have a place to live ... you don't have any money and you're living on the streets, when somebody offers you the opportunity to make some money ... you take them up on it."
But the sheriff says the 15 and 16-year-old likely had no idea what they were really getting into. He saysJenkins hired Antron Smith, known as "Trickmaster," and Smith'sgirlfriend, Stacy Bumgarner, to teach the girls how to have sex for cash.
He says Trickmaster and Bumgarner set up profiles for the two girls that they nicknamed "Candy" and "Diamond." The profiles were posted on Backpage.comso men could call the girlsdirectly and arrange to have sex with one or both of them.
Gualtierisays the girls were threatened too. "Because if you don't follow the instructions, you're going to be beaten." He saysthe customerswould pay from $150 to $350, and half of it would go to the three suspects. He adds,"No sex acts were off the table."
Detectives say Smith has a rap sheet 22 pages long. Bumgarner's is 11 pages long, and Jenkins has also had several run-ins with the law. But the sheriff says "Trickmaster" took it even further. "At the same time of all this going on, therewere at least five other teenage girls that he had in various hotels in Pinellas Park and in St. Petersburg along that 34th Street corridor."
He says Trickmaster also had a room down the hall where his two young children stayed while he made sure the girls earned money.
Glenda Williams, 12, lives under the watchful eye of her pitbull dog, Cocoa, and her mother inthe same apartment complex where Trickmaster lives. She says, "I think it's horrible. I wouldn't want to be a part of anything like that."
She says she's seen Trickmaster around, but has never spoken to him."Creeps can be anywhere, you know."
SheriffGualtieri says they plan to arrest the men who had sex with the underage girls. He says, "We're coming for you."
Pinellas County isn't alone in cracking down on online prostitution. On Monday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced the arrest of 92 suspects following a 4-day undercover operation.