Two child traffickers were arrested at a Florida motel and two minor girls were rescued thanks to the quick thinking of the motel owner.
On Sunday, police arrested 44-year-old Ricardo Flores and 44-year-old Maria Barrios Calero. The pair have been charged with human trafficking.
Richard Baron, the owner of the motel, spoke with a local news outlet in an interview about the incident — revealing that it began when Flores checked into the Lago Motor Inn, located south of West Palm Beach, by himself around 6 a.m. on Sunday.
Roughly a half hour after Flores checked in, Baron knocked on the door in response to an argument happening inside between Flores and Calero.
“He [Flores] opened the door, and then I see two young women, girls, sitting in yoga style, in the middle of the bed,” Baron told local CBS affiliate WPEC. “She [Calero] says to me, ‘He has to pay, he didn’t pay.’ I don’t know what happened between them.”
While the two traffickers argued about a transaction, the motel owner saw a condom near Flores while the two girls were sitting on the bed next to him.
“The girls were sitting right over here, quiet, eyes like this, looks scary,” Baron explained.
The motel owner, who was shocked at what he had witnessed, called police and filmed Calero as he attempted to drive away with the two young girls. Baron shared the footage with the media.
“I’m just doing my job — trying to help somebody always, if I can,” Baron told the outlet.
At around 8 a.m., the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit responded to the motel — where they confirmed that both minors appeared to be victims of commercial human trafficking.
“The two minor victims along with the two suspects were transported to a local substation for interviews,” the Palm Beach County Police Department reported in a statement.
Calero has been charged with three counts of human trafficking, while Flores was charged with two counts of human trafficking. They were both transported to the Palm Beach County jail. Calero’s bond was set at $750,000, and Flores’ bond was set at $500,000.
The Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking reports that the issue is a significant problem in the state — as Florida ranks as the third highest state for human trafficking cases. To help combat this problem, the state requires hotels to train employees to report red flags of child exploitation and human trafficking to authorities.
To combat human trafficking, Florida hotels will be required to follow current human trafficking awareness laws and to enhance our protection for the likeliest targets — young children.
Hotels will be required to maintain strict compliance, and non-compliance will result in… pic.twitter.com/rOf4k7my5s
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 16, 2023