LAKELAND, Fla. – A human trafficking suspect tricked an 18-year-old Lakeland woman he met on a dating app into thinking he wanted to be her boyfriend so he could instead take her to Miami and force her into prostitution, according to prosecutors.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle on Thursday announced the arrests of Saint Matthew Hopson, 32, and his accomplice, 19-year-old Atilia Cleto Thomas. Both are facing human trafficking charges.
Records show the victim started communicating with Hopson through Facebook Dating on Jan. 14 and he made her believe he was interested in a romantic relationship with her.
About a day later, Hopson is accused of picking up the woman from Lakeland and driving her to a Comfort Inn & Suites in Miami Springs. Once there, he told the victim he ran an escort service and introduced her to Thomas, according to the report.
Hopson took the victim to Victoria’s Secret, bought her lingerie and then had her pose for pictures when they got back to the hotel, prosecutors said.
Records show Hopson sent those photos to Thomas and had her post them on an escort site along with an ad that read, “I’m new to the game” without the victim’s knowledge. She believed Thomas would be the one having sex with male clients, according to a news release.
Officials said Thomas later told the victim she would have to have sex with the client “or we will lose $600.” The two argued until the victim agreed but ultimately she was unable to complete the sex act so Thomas did instead and gave the $300 payment to Hopson, according to prosecutors.
The victim told Hopson she didn’t want to be forced into prostitution but he told her he had recently gotten out of prison for human trafficking and he would kill her if she went to the police, records show.
Hopson is accused of sexually abusing the victim before driving her back to Lakeland. She has since been reunited with her family.
Prosecutors said the victim was able to positively identify Hopson and Thomas then earlier this month, they were located in Miami Springs after they were forced to check out of the hotel since they didn’t have money to pay the bill.
Records show they were detained during a traffic stop and in the vehicle, officers found a notebook with a list Hopson wrote about the laws of being a pimp.
Both are facing charges of human trafficking, forcing someone into prostitution, renting space to be used for prostitution, deriving support from proceeds of prostitution and unlawful used of a communications device.
Hopson is also facing a charge of sexual battery with a deadly weapon. Records show he has a history of prostitution-related arrests.
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