Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Arrests Made in Tampa, FL

*Photos courtesy of ABC Action News

From the St. Petersburg Times:

It started with one.
Police investigated.

They found a woman who endured abuse, rape and beatings, they say — a woman held captive in a $600,000 Treasure Island home, forced to dance and prostitute her own body.
But it didn't stop at one.

"This broke it open," said an investigator, Pinellas County sheriff's Capt. Teresa Dioquino. "A lot of tentacles sprung off of this case."

Now, Tampa Bay may sit in a ring of something often associated with dank rooms and Third World countries.

Human sex trafficking.

• • •

What police claim happened inside the house — what may be happening in other local cases — fits the predatory manifesto of traffickers all over the world.

"We're starting to find more and more cases where our youth is being targeted right here in the U.S., right here in Florida," said Giselle Rodriguez of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. "We're starting to see cases involving homeless adults. They look for people that are down and out on their luck, who are desperate to get themselves out of debt.

"They promise the American dream."

Kenyatta Cornelous, 38, Edward Jones, 47, Corinna Shaffer, 24, and Colin Dyer, 36, who turned himself in Monday, are all charged in connection with the case.

They brought women to the home with promises of prosperity, deputies say, then took their phones and identification and began a cycle of sexual and mental torture and mind control. They brought the women to strip clubs, where they were forced to dance and sell themselves while trailed by "handlers."

It's a classic model for exploitation. It happens in trailers, seedy motels, five-star resorts and mansions. It happens to men and women, young and old. It happens in a country where people have basic freedom.

So when it starts to get bad, why don't the victims just leave?

"They're afraid," said Mark P. Lagon, executive director of the Polaris Project, a U.S. organization that combats trafficking. "They're afraid of their exploiter killing or harming them, and they're afraid that they won't be seen as a victim, that police or immigration officials or society will treat them like a criminal, like an illegal alien or like a dirty, disposable person."

• • •

Vegas Showgirls, a squat stucco building beside Derby Lane on Gandy Boulevard, has a sign out front.

What happens at Vegas stays at Vegas.

But sordid allegations led investigators right back to the club. At least one victim was forced to dance there against her will, officials said.

Shaffer, who danced off and on at Vegas Showgirls under the name "Lacy," has four previous arrests related to prostitution or nudity in an establishment that serves alcohol. During her last arrest at Vegas Showgirls in February, seven other women ranging from 18 to 26 were also arrested on various charges, including prostitution for four of them.

"Vegas had nothing to do with this. It's just a club," owner Chip Jones said Sunday. "They just worked here. We didn't know anything that was going on on the outside."

Employees standing at the door declined to comment Monday.

Lagon points to the sex industry. He points to newspapers and magazines that print ads for illegal massage parlors. He points to the Internet.

"The sex industry is the enabling environment of human trafficking," he said. "It takes many forms. Latin brothels, Asian massage parlors, minors and migrants sold for sex on craigslist. There are the faces of sex trafficking, and businesses who are accomplices need to look at themselves in the mirror."

Where there is demand, he said, there will be supply.

At 2:30 p.m. Monday, there were 10 cars in the parking lot at Vegas Showgirls.
Emily Nipps can be reached at or (727) 893-8452. Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

A friend of mine sent this article to me. He resides in Tampa, Florida. Crazy to think how close to home trafficking can get. Tampa is a mere 12 hour drive.

Recently I attended a workshop for Social Workers and Therapists on dealing with Human Trafficking in the states and it was astonishing to realize how little people think it goes on here. It occurs under the guise of the sex industry.

It makes my heart beat fast, at least now people know what's happening and that it's happening in their neighborhoods.


  1. Anonymous11:36 PM

    I wonder what makes this case "trafficking" versus "pimping and pandering". Does anybody know!

  2. Anonymous5:27 PM

    People who claim to be devout christians should remember that it is not their day to judge. Human beings make mistakes and not everyone is blessed with the abilities associated with good decision making. Try getting a life or perhaps reporting things that are conducive to making the world a better place. Concentrate on your own homes and families where you may be able to exercise your need to be control freaks and let God handle everyone else.

  3. Anonymous10:28 AM

    I live in Florida about 20 minutes away from Tampa and i personally know all three people you have pictured above. Me and Kenyatta were actually very very close. Never once did i see anything that would make me think thiss was going on. Its crazy too think that i man i knew very well and was dating was involved in something like this. Makes it kind of hard for me to beleive

  4. Anonymous11:55 AM

    I live in Tampa FL, and I am glad that their are people who report stuff like this. It informs me, an opens my eyes to what is really around me.

  5. Anonymous12:17 PM

    I live is Tampa Fl, and I think that it is discusting that traffickers are able to get away with what they do to other people for personal gain. I hope that I never encounter any of these criminals, because if I do I am pretty sure that I will be tempted to dispose of this trash myself. Be ware if this if you are a trafficker in Tampa fl. I'm sure there are a lot of actual human beings that feel as I do about these sick people called traffickers.

  6. Anonymous2:47 AM

    My daughter is one of the four girls that was charged in prostitution in this case and I know for her life has been hell since she has gotten out of it. I was unaware that this was going on at the time or I would have done everything in my power to get her out of it. I just wish that the investigators and all involved would make it mandatory for these vicims to get counseling because I know my daughter really needs it but she claims she doesn't. She does, she has been thru hell on earth and needs to get professional help to deal with all of this. We all need to pray for these victims and hope that they get the help they all need so very much.

  7. Anonymous10:45 PM

    I just could not believe it when i saw it on the news. i worked there and worked with "lacy" for almost 2 years i never had any idea that such a nice and girl could be involved in something like this. The club had its issues just like 99% of the clubs in the tampa bay area but it was a decent and fun club to work in. My prayers do go out the the girls and their family's that was harmed in these events and im sure if someone was to speak up or hint anything to another girl working there at the time, something would have been done. the girls there where like family at work and outside the club.

  8. Anonymous4:32 PM

    I live a half hour from Tampa and am very grateful that people go the extra mile to post stuff like this up. It's amazing the things we see in this country a country that by other nations is considered a place u want to be. I love my county and I wil do every thing in my power to stop this. People need to work together to get the word out on what's going so we informing the youth what they can do to prevent this and most of all cry out to God for our nation.

  9. Anonymous6:13 PM

    Read a novel about human trafficking. very good. Pretty Maids from Barnes and Noble

  10. Anonymous12:59 PM

    This is scary. My heart breaks for those victims...