TACOMA, Wash. — An 18-year-old man, wanted for his alleged involvement in human trafficking, turned himself in to Tacoma police Tuesday night. Mikael Z. Williams is being held in Pierce County Jail on commercial sexual abuse of a minor.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Williams, who detectives believe assisted his older brother and another man in trafficking underage girls for sex. According to Lt. Ron Mead with the Washington State Patrol, the three operated primarily in Pierce, King, Thurston and Snohomish counties.
The investigation began after a mother saw her runaway 15-year-old daughter on a Backpage.com ad for sex. The mother contacted law enforcement.
According to a court document, the mother also called the number in the ad. The document reads: “The ad poster asked her how much she would pay, so [the mother] asked how much $200 would get. The response was ‘good sex.’”
“I don't recommend people do this, but the mother took on an operation of her own to recover her daughter, set up a meeting with her daughter through her pimps,” said Mead.
Police arrived at a Tacoma area hotel shortly after the mother went there too.
The investigation found Curtis Escalonte, 23, and Michael Williams, 22, engaged in trafficking underage girls for commercial sex using Tacoma-area hotel rooms and advertised the girls on Backpage.com throughout early December. Both are in the Pierce County Jail charged with numerous sex-related offenses with bail set at $2 million.
Detectives say Mikael was aware of the sex trafficking, including renting some of the hotel rooms used, and expected to be paid for his part in the "business."
The court document states one victim, who is 15, told police the older Williams brother and Escalonte took her and another victim to dinner.
Because she initially refused to take nude photos, she said the men drugged her before taking pictures of her naked.
“This is child rape. It’s sexual assault. There are men who are paying to have sex with children,” said Stephanie Sacks, the clinic director of therapy services for Rebuilding Hope, a sexual assault center.
Sacks said victims will often be coerced by men who convince them they’re in a dating relationship before forcing them into prostitution.
The 15-year-old victim in this case told police the men physically beat her and threatened to kill her if she told authorities.
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