By George Sells
North St. Louis County, MO (KTVI) — He lured teenage girls online, held them against their will, then sold them for sex. That’s what prosecutors say about a St. Louis County man, behind bars in the wake of what they describe as a child sex trafficking ring.
According to KTVI, Anton Mark Morris, 39, is charged in the case. Investigators say it began with Morris meeting up with a sixteen year old girl on a social media site.
“A young girl was recruited by him, they met online but recruited by him, to engage in various acts of prostitution. Promised her all sorts of things, put her up in a hotel then coerced her into recruiting others,” St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch told reporters Wednesday.
From there officials say Morris took the girls, 16, 17, and 19, to an area hotel. The checked in from April 25 to 27. In the meantime, he essentially advertised the girls as being available for sex online, and allowed men to come to the hotel and have sex with them for money.
After the three days police say he took the three to his north county home. When he fell asleep, at least one escaped out the window, heading for a nearby street in search of help.
“One young lady was not inclined to participate. So she got out of the place and managed to contact a trusted adult, an adult who contacted the police, put her in touch with the police,” McCulloch said.
Soon police were on Morris’ door.
“They arrested this guy. Rescued the two girls who were essentially being held captive in his place,” McCulloch said.
For investigators, this kind of recruitment of young girls is becoming more and more common.
“Recently we’ve seen an increase where people are using things like Facebook,” St. Louis County Police Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh said. “These men who are out there exploiting younger girls are doing it through Facebook and other social media type sites.”
Morris’ neighbors, who didn’t want to speak on camera, described him as a friendly man. They say they didn’t know him too well, but would often hear him riding his motorcycle late at night. The 39 year old’s Facebook page describes him as owning a real estate company, though only one, inactive listing was found under his name in an online search.
The child sex trafficking charge is not one that’s used often in St. Louis County, but it does carry a heavy punch. Morris could face life in prison.
He’s currently being held on $100,000 cash only bond.