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2 arrested when deputy spots signs of human trafficking

January 1, 2021 GMT

MILTON, Fla. (AP) — A traffic stop on Interstate 10 in Florida’s Panhandle led to the arrest of two men suspected of human trafficking, officials said.

A Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a vehicle and noticed indicators of possible human trafficking. Two teenage boys from Guatemala were inside the vehicle, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said in a news release. The deputy called for assistance from the Florida Highway Patrol.

The boys were recently smuggled into the United States from Mexico, the news release said. Agents believe the men were taking the boys to different cities in central and South Florida.

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“A deputy’s keen eye and immediate multiagency cooperation were instrumental in rescuing two children,” said Chris Williams, Chief of Investigations for FDLE Pensacola Regional Operations Center.

Investigators said the boys were likely trafficked to the U.S. for forced labor. The victims told investigators their families each paid more than $1,000 to be smuggled into the country. The teens were told they would have to work to pay off additional travel debt, the release said.

Agents arrested Frank Moreno, 39, of Odessa, Texas, and Jackson Perez-Godinez, 21, Guatemala. They are each charged with two counts of human trafficking and two counts of human smuggling.

The men were booked into the Santa Rosa County Jail and were being held without bond. Attorneys for the men were not listed on court records.