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7 Arrested In Florida After Allegedly Using Gaming App To Lure Teen Boy Into Sex Slavery
The “disturbing" case is a reminder to parents that sex traffickers often use forms of social media, including gaming apps, to lure victims, investigators said.
Seven people, including six men and one woman, have been arrested in Florida after allegedly using a gaming app to lure a teen boy to a “filthy trailer” with the promise of a better life, as well as using similiar promises on another teen but instead using him as a sex slave, authorities said.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the arrests, alongside St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, on Tuesday at a press conference to discuss the charges and lengthy investigation that began in May after two underage boys were discovered living in mobile home with four men, according to a statement from police.
“As a mother, I cannot begin to stress how disturbing the facts of this case are for me,” Moody said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Mark Earl Dennis and his husband, Andrew Barry Dennis, along with Michael Ray Blasdel, JR Gauthier, Michael Wayne Schwartz, Eleanor Faye McGlamory, and Curtis Lee Gruwell, are all charged with conspiracy to commit human tracking and interference with custody in the case.
Mark Dennis, Andrew Dennis, Blasdel, and Gauthier are also facing charges of sexual battery with a child under the age of 16.
Police said the investigation began in May 9, after they were contacted by members of a Louisiana law enforcement agency who claimed a missing 17-year-old boy from Louisiana was at a mobile home in St. Petersburg.
The boy had allegedly been lured away from his home just days earlier through the online gaming app, Discord. The suspects had allegedly used the app, which allows users to communicate with each other, to coordinate a time for McGlamory, who knew the boy’s family, and Gruwell to pick him up and drive him to Florida.
“He was told he was going to go to a place that was better,” Holloway said according to The Times.
When authorities went to the home, they found the boy from Louisiana along with another 16-year-old boy who had been missing from his home in Marion County, Florida.
Initially Mark Dennis had claimed to be the boy’s biological father; however, that claim would later prove false. Instead it was revealed the boy had been missing for more than a year.
He also had known McGlamory, who allegedly had befriended the boy, before he vanished from his home at the age of 15 leaving a note behind for his mom telling her not to look for him, police said.
But while he was also promised a better life, “instead he was moved into a filthy trailer and lived with four men,” police said in the statement.
During his time in the trailer he was allegedly used as a sex slave and introduced to sadomasochism by Mark and Andrew Dennis, along with Gruwell, Schwartz and their associates Blasdel and Gauthier, according to the statement.
“He did not attend school or receive medical care,” police said.
The boy was forced to stay on a small mattress that was surrounded by animal cages and animal waste, The Times reports.
Police do not believe the 17-year-old from Louisiana was sexually battered. He was returned to his home, while the younger boy is receiving specialized trauma-informed care designed for victims of human trafficking.
According to police, he is now “thriving.”
Investigators are urging parents that be aware that sex traffickers often use forms of social media, including gaming apps, to lure their victims.
“Traffickers and predators are using social media every single day to recruit children,” Natasha Nascimento, the founder and executive director of Redefining Refuge, an organization in Tampa Bay created to help trafficking victims, told local station WTVT.
According to her, no child is immune from the abuse.
“We’ve had children in our program who are born and raised sort of in foster care unfortunately, and we’ve had kids in our program from seven-figure households where they have parents who are physicians,” she said.
[Photo: St. Petersburg Police Department]