Unfortunately, many Americans are prone to believe that sex trafficking is a horror reserved for third-world countries and thriller movie plots like Taken, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, statistics show that 9 out of 10 people miss the red flags of sex trafficking.
With the increase in dangerous apps and social media platforms that allow predators to hide behind the guise of our children’s peers, the threat of sex trafficking invading our own homes has become more real than ever.
Thankfully, one fast-acting American Airlines worker had her eye out for the telltale signs that two teens in the Sacramento International Airport were in danger, likely saving them from captivity.
Denice Miracle, a customer service representative for the airline, sensed something was off when a 15 and 17-year-old girl showed up with one-way tickets to New York with no identification or adult companions. Their first-class tickets had also been purchased by someone with a fraudulent credit card, further adding to what the employee perceived as a fishy situation.
“Between the two of them, they had a bunch of small bags,” said Miracle. “It seemed to me as if they were running away from home. They kept looking at each other in a way that seemed fearful and anxious. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right.”
Following her gut instinct, Miracle refused to let the teens board the plane and called the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s Airport Bureau. The girls then went over to Starbucks and made a phone call to “Drey,” a man who authorities later discovered they met on Instagram. Drey had offered to buy the girls round-trip tickets and pay them $2,000 to do some modeling and music videos in New York.
They quickly agreed to the tempting deal and told their parents they were staying at each other’s houses.
“When I told them that they didn’t have a flight home, that’s when it kind of sunk in that maybe I was actually telling the truth,” said the officer who responded to the call, Deputy Todd Sanderson. “In my opinion, what was going to happen was they were going to go back to New York and become victims of sex trafficking. They said they wouldn’t have let that happen, and I said they probably wouldn’t have had a choice.”
Drey deleted all of his social media accounts within minutes of receiving the call from the girls and his phone line also stopped working, alerting authorities even further to an online predator scheme.
Thankfully, the teens were able to head safely home with their parents that night, though Sanderson believes their fate could have been much different if they boarded that plane.
“I’m very, very thankful Ms. Miracle with American Airlines was able to use her intuition and concern and actually say something,” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have been called and we wouldn’t have intervened with these girls.”
Sanderson later pointed out that the name of this highly-alert angel in disguise certainly suits her:
“She probably really was their miracle that day, whether they want to believe it or not.”
To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).