Florida police arrest students in alleged prostitution ring

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2014 6:41 PM

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida prostitution ring allegedly run by high school students who tried to recruit classmates with the promise of $40 and liquor was broken up after a second teenager was arrested in the underage sex scheme, police said on Tuesday.

One girl was sexually assaulted in the ploy, which came to light after four others told high school administrators that they were approached to join, according to police in Venice, on Florida's west coast.

Police charged a 15-year-old boy at Venice High School with human trafficking on Tuesday. They had arrested a 17-year-old girl from nearby Sarasota High School on Friday on the same charge.

On the girl's arrest affidavit, police noted that she denied the charge and was uncooperative.

An alleged customer, John Mosher, a 21-year-old restaurant dishwasher, was being held in jail in Sarasota County without bond, following his arrest on Friday on a sexual battery charge.

Neither his lawyer nor representatives for the students could immediately be reached for comment.

“I think we pretty much shut it down," Venice Police Captain Tom Mattmuller said in a phone interview.

The victim told detectives that the student ringleaders arranged for Mosher to have sex with her against her will at a swimming pool in August when she was 15 years old, police said.

Detectives said they found Facebook messages in which the arrested students detailed plans to use the girl for prostitution.

Authorities began investigating last month, when four girls at Venice High School told administrators they were approached to join.

They told police that the leader of the scheme claimed she convinced one girl to have sex in exchange for $40 and a bottle of liquor.

One of the arrested teenagers has been released home to her parents, and the other was already in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice for unknown reasons.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Mohammad Zargham)