TAMPA, Fla. — A network of nonprofit groups has converged on the Tampa Bay area to combat the uptick in sex trafficking that can come with big sporting events such as the Super Bowl.
I-Team Investigator Kylie McGiverndiscovered how the work of anti-human trafficking groups led to the rescue of a woman who flew from Nebraska to Florida and end up in Tampa, police say, with an alleged sex trafficker during Super Bowl weekend last year.
“The activity that you see coming into the city, they’re not all there to watch the game,” Debbie Lassitersaid. “That is one of the things that I think the general public misses, is everybody coming through the train stations, the bus stations, the airports, are full of young girls coming in that are just there to work.”
Lassiter is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Convergence Resource Center (CRC), based in Milwaukee, Wis. The non-profit provides a support network for survivors of human trafficking.
CRC works with the non-profit Rahab’s Daughters during the Super Bowl each year to provide phone support and rescues on the ground.
Last year, it was Miami that was on the world stage for Super Bowl LIV.
Lassiter said big events are an opportunity for big money when it comes to sex trafficking, which is what brought her from Milwaukee down to Miami.
In the week leading up to the big game, Lassiter said, “We are responding to internet messages from women or phone calls into one of the call centers, saying, ‘Hey, I would like to get out' or ‘I need some help.'"
One of those calls came from a young woman in Tampa, Lassiter said
“She received one of those phone calls from our center just saying, ‘Hey, do you need help with anything?’ And at first, initially, she said no. But then she did call back and said, ‘I’m in trouble and I need to get out of here’,” Lassiter said.
The woman’s plea prompted Lassiter to make the 4-hour drive from Miami to Tampa on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Is he going to send somebody after her? Is the hotel going to help us when we get there?” Lassiter recalled her thoughts with each passing mile. “All of these things were going through my mind but at the same time, one of the main things that was going through my mind was, ‘We got to get to her. We got to get to her.’ You know, and that was that.”
The victim, whose identity is protected in police reports and court records, was at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel near Tampa International Airport.
“While we were on the phone talking to her, she hung up and called back and said, ‘He just called and said he’ll be back in 15 minutes.’ She was actually hysterical at that point,” Lassiter said.
That’s when Lassiter and the DoubleTree management told the I-Team hotel staff jumped into action.
Lassiter said she told the alleged victim to go down to the front desk of the hotel.
“I had the front desk on the other end, I said ‘there’s a girl, she’s wearing this, she looks like this, and she’s coming down to you and you need to put her in a place where no one can see her’,” Lassiter recalled, telling the I-Team the person at the front desk took the woman to a back room just as the man arrived. “Literally passed each other like ships in the night,” she said.
Tampa Police arrested Stacy Charles Glover, of Broward County, at the hotel and charged him with human trafficking.
According to the police report, Glover paid for the victim to fly from Nebraska to Florida. Investigators said she believed she was flying to Florida to become a plus-size model.
Tampa Police Detective Kevin McNiff met the victim at the hotel.
“She came here thinking it was going to be one situation and the situation turned on a dime. It was very quick, and next thing you know, she was in this lifestyle and the whole situation escalated well beyond what she thought it was going to be,” McNiff said. “She was eager to tell her story and provide any necessary information to bring him to justice.”
The police report said, “the suspect gave the victim a set of printed our instructions for dealing with clients and how to receive money from them” ending with the line “you are paid to be an actress and perform.”
The report went on to allege that Glover created a website and posted photos of the victim in lingerie and “the monetary goal for the week was $1,000.”
The report also stated, that the victim did not engage in sexual activity with any clients because she did not want to, but led the suspect “to believe she did in order to keep him happy.” The victim is said to have lied about having clients and paid Glover with her own money she brought for the trip to Florida.
When asked what stands out to him about the case, McNiff said, “The fact that she was brave enough to come forward and contact law enforcement.”
Glover posted a $50,000 bond and was released from jail two days later.
He entered a plea of not guilty.
Glover’s attorney, Anthony Rickman, told the I-Team:
“He is not guilty of these offenses. And I think ultimately, once this case pans out and all of the evidence is learned, that it’ll be shown that Stacy Glover is not involved in human trafficking. That this is not a case of sex trafficking or human trafficking. Ultimately, I’m confident that once we’ve reached the end or conclusion of this case, once the evidence is received, that he’ll be shown to be innocent of these charges.”
The case remains open with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office.
Lassiter recalled the joy she and her team felt of being able to put the young woman on a plane and “send her back home to safety.”
“That one rescue, even if it was just one, ok, it’s that important,” Lassiter said.
Lassiter is back in Tampa this year with Rahab’s Daughters as the city hosts Super Bowl LV.
Statement from the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tampa Airport — Westshore
"Our guests' personal safety is always our highest priority. Our approach is multi-faceted. We conduct background checks before hiring new staff members. We have legal and ethical codes of conduct for all employees and conduct training sessions upon hire and regularly thereafter. Twice a year we hold training specifically about the critical issue of human trafficking. Additionally, we maintain close relationships with local law enforcement personnel and departments."
If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect an adult is a victim of human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline or call 1-888-373-7888. If you suspect a child is a victim, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.