OUACHITA Parish -- - UPDATE [6:15pm]-
35 year-old Willie Blackmon, Jr. and 33 year-old Lindsey Hutto are now behind bars-- each charged with one count of child sex trafficking.
Blackmon also faces three counts of human trafficking.
He was arrested earlier this week in Jackson, Mississippi. Hutto was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
"We within the law enforcement community work with each other to bring these cases to a resolution and give the victims some sort of justice as we try to get the perpetrators placed in jail.", says Chief Quentin Holmes with the Monroe Police Department.
Agencies from Mississippi and Louisiana began an investigation into a possible sex trafficking ring during the summer of 2016, when they received a tip from inside Monroe's Green Oaks Detention Center.
"We were notified through our Green Oaks Detention Center of a juvenile that may have been sex trafficked and trafficked in an organization here in Monroe.", explains John Asmussen, a senior investigator with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office.
Blackmon Hutto were identified as suspects in the case, and were later connected to sex trafficking investigations across 11 states nationwide.
Deputies say the two used websites and social media to promote their victims for acts of prostitution and to lure at-risk children into their ring.
"This investigation has identified several child victims that have been rescued and recovered, and multiple adult victims that have been exploited by this group.", says Asmussen.
"Lindsay Hutto was arrested by police in Alabama where she awaits extradition here to Louisiana. The other suspect, Willie Blackmon, Jr. was extradited Thursday from Jackson, Mississippi right here to the Ouachita Correctional Center."
The Northeast Louisiana law enforcement community says they're proud to announce the arrests in the case, hoping it provides closure for victims and their families.
"It took a lot of man hours, a lot of resources, and it took a lot of toll on the individuals that had to investigate these cases.", says Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell.
They add sex trafficking cases are more common than you may think.
"Obviously there is an issue as far as how prevalent it is, it's probably more prevalent than people realize.", says SSA Jared Medaries with Monroe's Office of the FBI.
"I'd like to say that this is the end, but I know that there's going to be more cases in the future. We're just looking forward to the possibility of making another arrest , and making more cases, and rescuing more children.", says Asmussen.
Investigators with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office Special Victims Unit, along with the Monroe Police Department, the FBI New Orleans Division Violent Crimes against Children Task Force, and Safe Streets Task Force, the FBI Jackson Mississippi Division Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Mississippi Attorney Generals' Office, and Ouachita Parish District Attorneys' Office announce the arrests of 35-year-old Willie C. Blackmon Jr. and 33-year-old Lindsey L. Hutto, both of Jackson, MS.
Beginning in the summer of 2016, investigators identified a female juvenile victim who had been forced into the child sex trade.
During the investigation, the suspects were also linked to an open investigation by the FBI Jackson Division and the Mississippi Attorney General's Office.
Through a coordinated effort, the suspect were found to be operating in 11 states, (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).
To date, this investigation has identified several child victims and multiple adult victims that were exploited by this organization.
The organization utilized several internet websites to advertise and promote the victims for acts of prostitution. The organization also used social media sites to recruit vulnerable and at risk children into the organization.
Anyone with information about this particular investigation or any other incidents of suspected human trafficking are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement office or report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888) 373-7888.
The Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office would also like to thank the Jackson, Mississippi police department and the Tuscaloosa, Alabama Police Department for their assistance.
Both suspects are currently in custody awaiting extradition back to Louisiana to face criminal charges. Blackmon is charged with 1 count of Child Sex Trafficking and 3 counts of Human Trafficking. Hutto is charged with 1 count of Child Sex Trafficking.
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