Cops Say Uber Driver Saved 16-Year-Old Passenger From Sex Trafficking – Fortune

It began out like another Uber transaction.

Keith Avila, a photographer who additionally drives for the ridesharing firm, picked up two ladies and a woman at a house in Sacramento, California on Monday. As they obtained into the automotive, Avila observed the woman appeared younger.

“She looked like she was about 12,” he tells PEOPLE, “but she was wearing a short skirt that showed off her legs.”

Almost instantly, Avila says, the dialog started to boost pink flags. “The lady in the back started getting really upset,” he recollects. “She was yelling at the girl, ‘You need to get your priorities straight. We need to make this money.’ ”

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As he drove, Avila says he tried to course of what was occurring. “I used to be considering, ‘What does she mean by money? Is she selling drugs?’”


A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London

He says the state of affairs quickly turned extra clear: “The lady within the again began teaching the woman. She stated, ‘before you go in, check for weapons. When you hug them and touch them, pat them down.’”

The dialog turned to speak about cost. “The woman told the girl to get the donation first,” Avila tells PEOPLE. “She said, ‘Ask if they have your donation before you go into the room.’ ”

Avila, a 34-year-previous married dad, then believed that the lady was a pimp and that the woman was a sufferer of intercourse trafficking. And he was driving them to a lodge. Hit With New Pimping, Money-laundering Charges in California

“I was 100 percent sure I knew what was happening,” Avila tells PEOPLE. “It wasn’t 99.999 percent. It was 100 percent. And I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it. I wondered if I should take pictures with my phone.”

As they drove as much as the lodge, one of many ladies received out of the automotive with the woman, Avila says. The different lady stayed within the automotive and made yet one more telephone name.

“It was very professional,” he says. “She sounded like a dentist’s secretary. She said, ‘I just want to make sure there’s no law enforcement there.’ And then she said, ‘Room 110.’ ”

As quickly because the second lady received out of the automotive, Avila drove a number of hundred ft down the street and referred to as the police, who arrived inside minutes. With Avila’s descriptions, they went straight to Room 110.

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As it seems, Avila’s hunch about might have been proper. Police say that the woman was a 16-year-previous prostitute and the 2 ladies together with her have been allegedly concerned in intercourse trafficking. (A police spokesperson confirms Avila’s account of his involvement to PEOPLE.)

Authorities have arrested Destiny Pettway, 25, and Maria Westley, 31, and charged them each with pimping and threatening a minor. They are being held with out bond. It’s unclear whether or not they have retained attorneys or entered pleas.

Police additionally arrested the suspected john, 20-year-previous Disney Vang. He was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute and sexual contact with a minor.

He didn’t return PEOPLE’s name for remark, and it’s unclear if he has retained an lawyer or entered a plea.

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Police say that they’re grateful to Avila for getting concerned.

“He could’ve said nothing. Went on his way, collected his fare. And then that 16-year-old victim could’ve been victimized again by who knows how many different people over the next couple of days, weeks, months,” Elk Grove police Officer Chris Trim advised FOX 40.

Uber can also be heralding Avila’s actions. “What Keith did is incredible,” an organization spokeswoman told The Washington Post in a press release. “We appreciate his quick response and professionalism in a difficult situation.”

Avila tells PEOPLE that he’d do the identical factor over once more.

“I knew what was happening,” he says, “and I would never have been able to ignore it. It was the right thing to do.”

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