Sex trafficking of retired North Texas teen from Mavs game could have been avoided – Reuters

The family of a 15-year-old girl who disappeared during a Dallas Mavericks game in April and was later found prostituted in an Oklahoma City hotel says multiple organizations were negligent to prevent the situation to get worse.

Zeke Fortenberry, an attorney representing the family after the incident, sent a letter to the Dallas Police Department, American Airlines Center, Dallas Mavericks and Extended Stay America saying their actions or policies failed the victim and his family.

On April 8, the girl and her father, who are from North Richland Hills, attended the Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center. Just before halftime, the girl went to the bathroom but didn’t come back.

The father immediately notified American Airlines Center staff and Dallas police of his disappearance, according to Fortenberry’s letter.

When the game ended, the girl had not been found and police told the father to go home, Fortenberry said.

For several days, the family called the Dallas Police Department for assistance in locating their daughter. Fortenberry said Dallas police never opened an investigation and made no effort to locate the teenager.

The family turned to a non-profit organization, the Texas Counter-Trafficking Initiative, and they discovered the girl was being advertised and sold for sex in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City police discovered she was being held at an Extended Stay America hotel and made arrests and recovered the girl on April 18. Eight people were arrested for human trafficking, distribution of child pornography and rape.

Fortenberry said several steps could have prevented the incident.

He said the man who lured the teenage girl from the game found her in an area inside the center where he did not have a valid ticket to enter, and that the fraudulent ticket the man had had been provided by a known Dallas individual. Mavericks and American Airlines Center as a fraudulent ticket seller.

“The Dallas Mavericks and AAC failed to protect the victim of the man with the illegal ticket in a restricted area,” Fortenberry said.

The letter also claims that Dallas police refused to investigate the matter, although the family immediately reported the disappearance and continually called the department.

The Dallas Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. Representatives for the Mavericks, American Airlines Center and hotel could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a WFAA-TV report, Dallas police said the arena was searched and shared this about protocol for these situations: “Texas Family Code (51.03 b. 3) states that missing minors are investigated as runaways unless there are circumstances that appear to be unintentional. like kidnapping or abduction. These cases by code should be filed where the minor resides.

Dallas police told the WFAA they assisted North Richland Hills police, who listed the victim on a national missing persons database and created a bulletin that was sent to the department on April 11. .

Fortenberry said the incident should not have been treated as a runaway.

“That’s not the case here,” he said. “She disappeared during a sporting event.”

Surveillance video showed the girl leaving the center with a man.

The attorney’s letter says a registered sex offender used a fake name and fake ID to rent multiple hotel rooms at the Extended Stay hotel in Oklahoma City. The teenager was detained at the hotel for several nights and was sexually assaulted there.

Fortenberry said there were signs of human trafficking at the hotel and employees should be trained and should respond to those red flags.

“It was a series of failures that ultimately led to this,” Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry said the letter he sent to these entities was intended to start a conversation and ensure that policies or actions are changed within these organizations to ensure a similar incident can be avoided.

He said his company is giving each organization about 30 days to respond to the letter before taking any legal action.