(LSP News Release)-
New Orleans – During the past week, the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations – Special Victims Unit (SVU) investigated cases which resulted in the recovery of two missing children, and the arrests of two men on charges related to child trafficking. As a result of two separate investigations, SVU Investigators arrested 22 year old Andre Johnson Jr. of Baton Rouge, and 30 year old Rodney Lavalais Jr. of New Orleans for various charges.
The first investigation began on October 24, 2016, when SVU received information from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office regarding a missing 16 year old female. Sheriff’s Office personnel believed the juvenile had been communicating with an unidentified male subject from the Baton Rouge area. On October 25, 2016, investigators recovered the missing juvenile from a motel in New Orleans East. She was placed in protective custody. Andre Johnson Jr. was arrested in the same motel room for an unrelated warrant out of West Baton Rouge Parish (Possession of stolen property and Possession of a stolen firearm). Investigators were able to determine that Johnson lured the victim from her home and transported her to New Orleans under false pretenses, where he physically abused her and forced her to perform lewd acts.
On October 27, 2016, Johnson was charged by SVU on an Orleans Parish arrest warrant for violating LRS 14:46.3 – Trafficking of children for sexual purposes, and re-booked in the Orleans Parish Prison where he was currently being held on the West Baton Rouge Parish warrant. LSP was assisted in this investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, United States Marshals Service, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, and the New Orleans Police Department.
The second investigation began on September 29, 2016, when SVU recovered a 17 year old female from a New Orleans hotel room. The juvenile had been missing for seven weeks. Further investigation revealed the juvenile was forced to engage in commercial sex activity during the time she was missing. As a result of investigation, on October 31, 2016, an arrest warrant for LRS 14:46.3 – Trafficking of children for sexual purposeswas issued for Rodney Lavalais Jr.
On November 2, 2016, the Kenner Police Department arrested Lavalais on an unrelated incident. Lavalais was booked into the Jefferson Parish Corrections Center for the outstanding Orleans Parish warrant, as well as additional charges of Felon in possession of a firearm, and Possession of marijuana. After processing at JPCC, Lavalais will be transported to Orleans Parish Prison where he will be booked accordingly on the SVU child trafficking warrant. This investigation is ongoing, and arrest warrants are pending for additional suspects. LSP was assisted in this investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, New Orleans Police Department, and the Kenner Police Department.
“These two cases prove how vital it is for law enforcement not just in Louisiana, but across the country to remain focused on combating human trafficking,” said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent. “I am extremely proud of the work that the Special Victims Unit continues to perform. When it comes to human trafficking, it is important to remember that along with criminals arrested, there are also victims as well. The SVU will continue to work daily by rescuing and assisting those victims of human trafficking, as well as bringing to justice those who choose to break the law.”
The LSP Special Victims Unit, comprised of Troopers who work in partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, was created to combat child exploitation and investigate child and adult sex trafficking and labor trafficking across Louisiana. The public plays an integral role in identifying suspects accused of these crimes, and is strongly urged to report criminal or suspicious activity. The Louisiana State Police online reporting system is available to the public through a convenient and secure reporting form that is submitted to the appropriate investigators. Citizens can access the form by visiting http://la-safe.org/ and clicking on the “Suspicious Activity” link.