Police are lauding a motel worker as a “local hero” after his quick thinking led to the rescue of two girls who were allegedly being sex trafficked in Palm Beach, Fla.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said that Ricardo Flores, 44, and Maria Barrios Calero, 44, were both arrested and charged in connection with the incident, which unfolded at the Lago Motor Inn motel in Lake Worth Beach, Fla., about 10 miles south of West Palm Beach.
Motel owner Richard Baron called police after he witnessed a suspicious argument between guests. Roughly a half hour after Flores checked into the motel, Baron reportedly knocked on his door after hearing about an argument taking place inside the room, according to CBS 12.
“[Flores] opened the door, and then I see two young women, girls sitting in the middle of the bed,” Baron alleged to the outlet. “[Calero] says to me, ‘He has to pay, he didn’t pay.’ I don’t know what happened between them.”
Baron allegedly noticed a condom on the bed next to Flores and the two young girls and soon called police. Police said authorities arrived as Calero allegedly tried to leave the motel with the two young girls, according to CBS 12, still complaining that Flores didn’t pay her.
“The swift intervention of the hotel clerk, who noticed the young victims and alerted authorities, played a pivotal role in their rescue,” the sheriff’s office said on social media, calling Baron a “local hero.”
The sheriff’s office said in a news release that detectives’ initial investigation of the scene shows Calero had allegedly tried to coordinate a “date” between Flores and the two young girls. Both Flores and Calero were taken into custody at the scene, police said.
Calero was charged with three counts of human trafficking of a minor with a $750,000 bond, while Flores was charged with two counts of human trafficking of a minor with a $500,000 bond. It’s not clear if either suspect has entered a plea or retained an attorney.
Last year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said it received more than 19,000 reports of possible child sex trafficking.
Noting Baron’s “bravery,” the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said his decision to call police after his suspicious encounter with Flores and Calero was “a powerful example of community action.”
“We applaud this courageous act and remain committed to safeguarding our community against exploitation,” the sheriff’s office said.FROM THE PEOPLE