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HCSO: 8 women rescued after being forced into sex work in Hillsborough, Pinellas counties

Amet Maqueira De La Cal, 35, and Rosalia Leonard Garcia, 29, were arrested and are both facing 47 charges total, including human trafficking charges.

TAMPA, Fla. — Eight women were rescued along with their families while two other people are now behind bars after reportedly forcing them into sex work.

During a news conference Monday morning, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister explained how eight women, between the ages of 18-24, were brought over to the U.S. from Cuba only to be threatened and exploited.

But within a span of a few days, the sheriff said all eight of the women were rescued "from the peril of human trafficking."

Amet Maqueira De La Cal, 35, and Rosalia Leonard Garcia, 29, were arrested and are both facing 47 charges total, including human trafficking charges.

Last week, detectives with the sheriff's office reportedly received a tip that a woman was brought over from Cuba and across the southern border of Mexico into the U.S. She then had a large debt to pay.

Along with this tip, Chronister said detectives learned she was being threatened along with her family that if the debt wasn't paid, she'd be forced to "work in the sex trade until her financial obligation was satisfied."

And she wasn't the only one put into this position. The agency learned that several other women, a total of seven, were also in the same situation of having to pay $60,000 each.

Detectives set up a surveillance operation which helped confirm the acts and allegations.

"[The women] were forced to work in various adult entertainment clubs in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and...they were never allowed to leave the home without an escort," Chronister explained. "All of the trapped women were working as prostitutes, strippers and forced to perform other types of sex acts to pay off their debt of $60,000 each."

Maqueira De La Cal and Leonard Garcia reportedly threatened the women and their families with a gun to get them to work in the clubs and do sex work to pay off the money. 

According to a news release from the Florida attorney general, the two people also took the women's IDs and other documents — forcing them to live in small rooms together.

It wasn't until one of the women was able to call a human trafficking helpline that the authorities were notified. 

On Thursday night, detectives were able to follow seven of the women being escorted to the International Plaza and make contact with them. The women were rescued and the eighth woman was later found back at the house after a search warrant was conducted.

Both Maqueira De La Cal and Leonard Garcia were arrested and are facing multiple charges.

“These horrific acts of sex trafficking are among the most depraved crimes we have seen in a long time and highlight how criminals are taking advantage of Biden’s open border to advance their illicit trade," Attorney General Ashley Moody said in a statement. 

"I applaud the swift, courageous actions of Sheriff Chronister’s deputies and ensure my Statewide Prosecutors will hold the traffickers accountable in court for what they did to these eight women.”

To learn the signs and how to report suspicious activity, visit YouCanStopHT.com.

Watch the full news conference down below.

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