I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Local girls sold for sex

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Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Agencies across Georgia have been working together to stop human trafficking leading up to the big game. The game is over, but sex trafficking will continue when the crowds leave the Peach State. Our I-Team found it happening in our city, hidden in plain sight.

Interstate 20 stretches more than 1,500 miles through six states. It connect big cities with small town and small town with big cities. I-20 It becomes a route to human trafficking when it aligns with the information superhighway.

"You've got to understand first and foremost it's real. I chase what you think is not happening. I hunt what you think is a myth. This is not a myth I've seen it," Brian Jones said.

He spent half of his career in law enforcement hunting men and women selling children for sex. He's found girls in motel rooms and truck stops in Augusta.

How do girls end up in the motel room? How did they get into the life? How does this begin? Agent Charles Kicklighter works behind a screen which is where it usually all begins.

"Parents buy a phone and give it to their kid and that's the babysitter and they have no clue what is going on,"Kicklighter said.

Traffickers use social media to recruit children. They act interested in the child and earn his or her trust.

Ginger Amberson: "It turned from online relationship and boyfriend to very violent and from there used coercion and threats to keep her online to keep in her line. She had been trafficked with for months before she was sent to us."
Liz Owens: "And she was living with her parents?"
Ginger Ambderson: "Yes."

She wasn't a runaway. She was just a 14-year old girl with a cell phone and a single parent on second shift.

Amberson runs non-profit I-Care. They help girls escape trafficking. Right now, she is serving more than thirty local girls.

"All of the girls we serve on social media and all that we served this past year social media has been an aspect of it," Amerson said. "I don't think its recognized because we are looking for the gagged and yanked off the street in a moments notice when actually a lot of these girls are being approached online."

"It very well could be your child before it's over with," Jones warned.

Any child in any neighborhood with a cell phone could easily become a target.