'It struck me as odd': Uber driver saves teen from sex trafficking
A 16-year-old girl has been rescued from a sex trafficking ring after an astute Uber driver recognized warning signs. Keith Avila had been driving with Uber for barely a month when he picked up three women and immediately realized something was wrong.
Avila earned less than $8 from an Uber ride Monday, but saved one young woman from being forced into prostitution. He picked up three women in Elk Grove, California, and noticed that one of the passengers appeared at be around 12 years old but dressed oddly for her age.
“She had a really short skirt," Avila told KCRA. "So, you could see all her legs, and it struck me as odd because she was so young and she was dressing like that."
But it wasn’t until he decided to eavesdrop on what the other two women were telling her that he figured out what was going on.
“‘You need to get your priorities straight. We need to make this money. We need to make this money,'” he told KOVR, recalling their conversation.
“'First thing you want to do is ask: Do you have any weapons? When you're hugging him, just ask, do you have any weapons?'” Avila claims the woman told the girl. “'Pat him down while you're hugging him. Get the donation, first. Before you start touching him, going in there, get the donation first.’”
Avila dropped the girl and the two women accompanying her, identified as Destiny Pettway, 25, and Maria Westley, 31, at a Holiday Inn Express. He drove a safe distance away and called the police who found the girl with 20-year-old Disney Vang. All three have been arrested with bail set for Pettway and Westley at $500,000 for pimping charges. Vang has been released on bail.
The teenager was found to be a runaway, a group of young people that are particularly susceptible to human trafficking. Elk Grove police spokesman Chris Trim praised Avila’s quick thinking, telling KOVR: “He listened in depth and in fact even knew what room they were going to and that helped our officers.”