A California Uber driver is being hailed as a hero after he helped rescue a 16-year-old girl from sex slavery. He reportedly picked up the young girl, along with two female pimps, this week and immediately knew something was wrong.
Elk Grove police arrested three people Monday after Keith Avila, a married father of one from Sacramento, California, dialed 911 promptly after he dropped the group off at a Holiday Inn. Police found that the 16-year-old girl was a runaway, and she has since been transported to an alternative housing location in the area.
“What gave me chills is, the next day [police] said she was reunited with her family,” Avila, 34, told The Daily Beast. “She was missing. I felt kind of good about that.”
Avila, who only started driving for Uber about a month ago, is a photographer by day who specializes in quinceañeras.
“I take pictures of girls exactly her age,” Avila said. “When I take pictures, everyone’s happy and smiling. To see that, compared to what I saw [the night of the arrests], I knew, ‘OK, there’s something wrong here.’”
After he dropped the women off at the hotel, he immediately called police for suspected child prostitution. Once officers arrived, they arrested Destiny Pettway, 25, and Maria Westley, 31, who reportedly arranged for the young girl to meet a man at the hotel. Both women were charged with pimping and pandering, while Disney Vang, the suspected “customer” who was located in a room with the girl, was arrested for unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
Shortly after the arrests, Avila released a Facebook Live video explaining the situation.
Avila explained to The Daily Beast that he had a bad feeling about the group when he arrived at the Oak Park neighborhood around 6:30 P.M. He says the girl’s dress was too short and she was being coached by the other women about what to do once she got to the hotel.
“OK, here’s what you do. Before we get inside, you want to hug the guy. The first thing you ask is, ‘Do you have any weapons?’” Avila recalled the woman saying. “When you’re hugging them, pat them down. Check for weapons.”
She then told the teen to ask for her “donation” and to get the money before she went into the hotel room.
“When I heard that, it was so obvious,” Avila told The Daily Beast. “There was no thought process. I’m going to call the police.”
Earlier this year, the company announced a partnership with ECPAT-USA, a non-profit organization working to end child sex trafficking. On Wednesday, they released a statement saying they were happy to hear that the driver quickly notified police and helped save the teenage girl.
[H/T: The Daily Beast]