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Hispanic Uber driver rescues teenage victim of sex trafficking

A taxi driver in northern California called the police when he realized that his young passenger was being forced into prostitution.
29 Dic 2016 – 06:55 PM EST
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Keith Ávila, an alert Uber driver, who helped rescue of a teenage victim of human trafficking. Crédito: Univision

LOS ANGELES - Keith Ávila, a Uber driver, never imagined that the ride he picked up would end with his playing a heroic role in the rescue of a teenage victim of human trafficking.

Ávila explained in an interview with Univision that it all started when he arrived at a house to pick up three passengers who had requested to be taken to a hotel located in the city of Elk Grove in northern California.

Two women and a young girl got into the vehicle, but on the way Ávila said that the teenager's clothing and the conversation between the crew led him to suspect a possible crime unfolding.

The driver said the teenager wore a "very short" skirt and that the other two women were "advising" her on how she should behave when arriving at the hotel.

"Before you do anything and enter the room you have to ask for the money first," was part of the conversation Ávila overheard. "When I heard that, I knew what was happening," said the Uber driver.

Once he arrived at the hotel and the women left the car, Ávila immediately notified the local authorities.

Elk Grove Police Department spokesman, Christopher Trim, said law enforcement responded quickly and when they entered the room they found the teenager - a 16-year-old runaway - and a man involved in a sex act.

The man was arrested and the two women accompanying the child were also detained, Trim confirmed.

Two suspects, identified as Destiny Pettway, 25, and Maria Westley, 31, face charges of pimping and sexual exploitation of a minor.

The authorities determined that the girl was a victim of sexual exploitation and transferred to a shelter where she will receive assistance while authorities locate her parents.

Ávila, from Sacramento, said he never doubted what to do. The young man, who also works as a professional photographer and frequently portrays 15 year-old Latino birthday parties ("quinceañeras"), said that seeing the contrast between the young girl in his car and the happy girls he sees in his photographic assignments, also prompted him to alert the authorities.

"Compare the life of girls at (quinceañeras) ... where everything in life is good. And look at a girl like that, almost the same age ... no," he concluded.

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