By J.D. Gallop for Florida Today on October 29, 2013—
“Two dozen Orlando children younger than 18 were crammed into the back of an older model Chevrolet work van, driven to Palm Bay on Friday and dropped off to spend more than 10 hours selling cheap items door-to-door, Palm Bay police said. If they had to use the bathroom, they were told to use the bushes. If they were thirsty, to ask residents for water, police said.
Police arrested two of the men behind the operation, which authorities said provides a window into a growing trend of human trafficking: luring children and young adults with the promise of an honest wage, transporting them in often unsafe conditions and sending them off to conduct unsupervised sales in unfamiliar neighborhoods.
-Police say two Orlando men crammed two dozen children into the back of this van with seats separated by plywood walls and used them to sell cheap wares door-to-door in Palm Bay.
“They were told to sell their goods at all costs. They rounded them up and stuffed them into the back of a van, brought over from Orlando. Food, water, it was rationed. And they were told the only way they could get anything was to sell,” said Yvonne Martinez, spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Police Department.
Monday, the driver of the van and owner of an Orlando-based group called Teens Against Drugs and Alcohol, 39-year-old Johnny Carrasquillo, and 20-year-old John Saint Hilaire, 20, faced a judge on 24 counts each of human trafficking.
Brevard Judge Kathleen Clarke ordered both men, who were arrested by Palm Bay police Friday, to be held on a $5.6 million bond each at the Brevard County Jail Complex.
Both also were charged with 24 counts of child abuse and eight counts each of employing a minor child, reports show. The case will be sent to the Brevard County state attorney’s office, where prosecutors will decide whether to press formal charges.
In the Palm Bay case, the children were picked up by 9 a.m. in Orlando and driven to Palm Bay in a van so crowded that some sat on laps and on the floor. Each row of seats was separated by makeshift plywood partitions that blocked the only exit door, Martinez said.
The teens were to be picked up, after a day of sales, about 8:30 p.m. and would not get home until close to midnight, police said.”
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