RIVERDALE — An undercover operation revealed a disturbing prostitution ring involving teenage girls in Northern Utah.
The investigation began when Riverdale officers came across what appeared to be an intoxicated 16-year-old girl in the company of an older man and another teenager. The first teen mentioned something about collecting money from a man at a motel, prompting detectives to look further.
An undercover investigation and sting at a motel led to the arrest of Aaron "Dante" Elliot, who police say was acting as a pimp. According to police, Elliot would hire underage girls for at least $100, sometimes up to three times a day, for his service.
"He just advertised in the newspapers as an escort service and when he would have (the girls) come in and fill out an application, he would talk to them and find out what they were willing to do," said Riverdale police Lt. James Ebert.
His escort business even had its own website. Riverdale Police said that much of Elliott's business took place at hotels but a lot of those deals are done online nowadays.
"When he would have (the girls) come in and fill out an application, he would talk to them and find out what they were willing to do."
One expert said the fight against human sex trafficking can also take place online.
Brad Manuel discovered the frightening reality that he says takes place in our own communities after watching the movie "Taken." The film depicts a disturbing scenario of an unsuspecting American girl kidnapped with the intent of being sold into the sex trade overseas.
"Sex trafficking is part of a $32 billion a year industry. The average age a girl becomes a prostitute in the United States is 13," Manuel said.
He and his wife now head up Operation 61, a non-profit organization that builds awareness and works with volunteer and government agencies to find solutions.
Manuel also talked about fighting demand for sex industries at the grassroots level, starting with pornography.
"Utah is the No. 1 state for pornographic downloads, and that increases the demand for these sexually trafficked individuals," Manuel said.
Manuel is now using the power of the Internet to help protect children. His website offers a set of warning signs for parents, and it suggests monitoring phone usage, web histories, even Facebook accounts. He said parents need to have their kids' passwords.
"There's no such thing as privacy. They're our children," he said.
Manuel said he's not attacking any industry, he just believes an addiction to pornography is what ultimately leads into the demand.