SARASOTA -- A 24-year-old man was charged with human trafficking of a minor after an undercover operation by the Sarasota Police Department.
Sarasota police received a tip from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office that Maurice Williams was advertising a 16-year-old female for prostitution in Sarasota on the website BackPage, according to a release.
Sarasota officers made a phone call with the number listed on the BackPage ad, which said the juvenile was 21, and arranged to meet the juvenile on Dec. 18, according to a report. The girl was dropped off by a white vehicle at the agreed place and time, and officers took her into protective custody.
Police then conducted a traffic stop on the white vehicle, which was driven by Williams, police said. He was arrested and taken to the police station to be interviewed, where he refused to speak without a lawyer present.
In interviews with the victim, she initially lied about her age and told police that Williams was her boyfriend, according to a report. She later confirmed that she was 16 and said she had been using BackPage for prostitution for a couple of years, and that Williams knew her age and dropped her off at calls in exchange for gas money and "whatever else he needs."
The juvenile said she was staying at a Best Western in Sarasota in her own name and that Williams was not staying with her, police said.
Officers then executed a search warrant at a Best Western on Dec. 18, and a clerk said the room was in Williams name and that a young female had been with him when he checked in. Police located more evidence of human trafficking in the room.
Both Williams and the juvenile are from the Tampa area. The juvenile, who was reported a missing runaway out of Hillsborough County two months ago, met with representatives from Selah Freedom, a local organization that helps victims of human trafficking.
Williams was charged with human trafficking of a minor and procuring a person under the age of 18 for prostitution, according to a release.