If you don’t have older kids of your own, you probably remember from your own teenage years that that period of a person’s life is largely defined by the urge to rebel. That rebellion can take many different forms but for Jane, a girl from Fort Worth, Texas, it would cause a lot more serious problems than most have to deal with.
In 2015, Jane was 16 years old and in the midst of a very tumultuous period of her life. She was currently on probation after for stealing her mother’s checkbook and writing a bad check. She was also regularly consuming alcohol and marijuana…
Doing What She Can
Jane’s mother Sarah was doing the best she could to try and curb her daughter’s bad behavior. She had arranged for her daughter to see not one but 2 therapists and, although her job required travel, she arranged with her employer to work from home as often as possible, potentially jeopardizing her employment.
Still, Jane’s wild behavior persisted. Things had gotten so bad that Sarah had purchased a gun safe, but not for storing firearms. Instead she used it to secure her alcohol, credit cards, and other valuables that she couldn’t trust her daughter around…
“We had people over and I had them putting their purses and billfolds in the safe,” Sarah said. “I just didn’t trust her anymore.” That’s why when Jane said she wanted to temporarily go live with her best friend and that girl’s mother, Sarah, Jane’s therapists, and even her probation officer thought that a small break from each other was a good idea for both of them.
Love, Not Like
“We were at odds with each other,” Sarah said. “I love my daughter but I didn’t like her. I didn’t want to be around her and I needed a break so she went to stay with them.” Jane would stay with her friend for 30 days but she had to agree to still had to attend school and look for a job.…
Sarah would also continue to pay for Jane’s cellphone but only if the girl promised to respond to her phone calls and texts within a certain amount of time. But Sarah wasn’t satisfied with just those safeguards “I didn’t want to be too close, but I still wanted to keep my eyes on her,” she said. She put a tracking device on Jane’s phone as a safety net.
‘Trust But Verify’
“I always say ‘trust but verify,’” Sarah said. “So if [Jane] would go out with a group of friends, if I knew them and their parents, it was fine. I still had to verify.” Jane agreed to all of her mother’s terms but she didn’t know about the GPS tracker. It was a good thing Sarah had installed it because Jane and the tracker were telling 2 different stories…
“I kept pinging her phone and it wasn’t matching where she told me she was. I was texting her and she kept saying she couldn’t talk. I never could get a hold of her when she was out. Either her phone was dying or there was a bad signal,” Sarah said. Then, when she saw one location pop up on the tracker, Sarah was worried and confused.
“I zoomed in on the map and her location landed on a hotel. Why would my daughter be at a hotel?” Sarah said. “I didn’t understand.” Jane dismissed Sarah’s concerned but she wasn’t going to let it go. “I pulled up her call log and highlighted every number that I didn’t recognize,” Sarah said. “Here was a number that kept popping up… over and over again.”…
When she put the phone number into a search engine, an image of her daughter popped up. “I’m suddenly crying. It’s my daughter and she’s in a nighty and a thong lying on a hotel bed. I can’t describe the emotions that you go through,” Sarah said. “I just wanted to get to her but I couldn’t.”
Sarah’s research showed that her daughter was one of several girls and women being forced to perform sex acts for money out of hotel rooms in the Fort Worth area. She immediately contacted the police, who warned Sarah against taking any rash action…
Don’t Be Rash
“Officers told me that if I tried to rush into the hotel, the [sex] traffickers would either hurt [Jane], hurt me or take her to another city or another state and I would never see her again, Sarah said. Instead, Sarah began collecting as much evidence as possible to help the authorities in their investigation.
Uncovering the Organization
With Sarah’s help investigators were better able to get a more complete picture of the sex trafficker’s operation. “This wasn’t something they fell into, this was organized,” said Special Agent John Kochan of Homeland Security…
The operation was spread out to at least 6 cities throughout Texas. “These girls would be raped, and forced to have sex with multiple people every night,” Agent Kochan said. The organization would post pictures of girls like Jane in online advertisements for escort services.
“There’s a reason she’s in that hotel room and it’s not because she wants to be,” Agent Kochan said. “Many of these girls and women aren’t bound by physical chains, it’s the mental and emotional chains that keep them enslaved. They have a lot of guilt and shame, and their self-worth is non-existent. Sometimes they don’t recognize themselves as victims.”…
I Want Money
Sarah’s daughter was one such girl, lured into the world of prostitution after being introduced to an older crowd by a friend. “I didn’t want to go to school no more because I wanted to get some money,” Jane said. “I was like, ‘I can’t get a job because I’m only 16.’” Then a friend told her “I know these guys that can help you out.”
“She didn’t tell me, ‘Hey these dudes are going to make you have sex to get some money,’” Jane said. Through psychological manipulation and the threat — and sometimes use — of violence, the traffickers kept her working each night, dropping her off at school during the day…
While Sarah was working with law enforcement to gather evidence to organize a sting operation, Jane was taking matters into her own hands. She left the hotel — barefoot and with her belongings stuffed in a pillowcase — but returned shortly after, demanding her latest pimp give her some of the money she’d made.
“I’m making $2,000 a night. There’s no way you can’t give me half,” Jane had said, sitting in his car. When he refused, she started swinging wildly at the man. “He threw me out of the car because I busted his lip open.” When she returned home, Jane discovered she was pregnant, undoubtedly because none of her “Johns” used condoms…
But with the help of Sarah, Jane’s case would expand into one of the largest investigations in Texas history. Over the course of 9 months, with the involvement of local police, the Department of Homeland Security, and the ATF, a dozen victims were identified and 9 people — many with ties to the Polywood Crips gang — would plead guilty to federal charges in the case.
This Is Out There
“This is not a one-time situation,” warned Sarah. “This is out there. They’re after us. They have figured out they can make so much money and they are out for product.” Since she was abducted “Jane” has obtained her high school diploma and undergone therapy and drug rehab. The name Jane, as in Jane Doe, has been used in this story in order to protect the teen’s identity.