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Two charged with trafficking Lakeland girl in Miami-Dade

human trafficking
Posted at 5:09 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 17:09:47-05

MIAMI, Fla. — A North Carolina man and a 19-year-old woman were arrested in Miami for human trafficking initiated through social media grooming.

Investigators say the 18-year-old victim met 32-year-old Saint Matthew Hopson through Facebook Dating on Jan. 14. He began grooming the victim by making her believe he was interested in having a romantic relationship with her.

A day later, Hopson went to Lakeland to meet the victim and drove her to the Comfort Inn & Suites Hotel in Miami Springs. He told the victim he managed an escort service and introduced her to Atilia Cleto Thomas.

Hopson took the victim shopping at Victoria’s Secret and later had her pose for cell phone pictures in the garments he purchased for her. Without her knowing, Hopson sent the photographs to Thomas and told her to post the victim's pictures on an escort service platform called Thomas posted the pictures under "I’m new to the game.”

The victim had no knowledge she was being offered for sex online. Hopson told the victim that Thomas would be the one having sex with clients.

Later, Thomas told the victim that she would have to have sex with a customer, “or we will lose $600.00." After going back and forth, the victim attempted to comply but was unable to go through with it. Thomas performed the sexual act and took a $300 payment which she gave to Hopson.

On Jan. 16, while at the hotel, Hopson had several instances of sexual contact with the victim against her will. The victim told Hopson she did not want to engage in prostitution and wanted to go home.

Hopson told the victim he just got out of prison for human trafficking and kidnapping and would kill her if she called the police. He then demanded she provide him with the address of one of her family members before they drove her back to Lakeland.

The girl was eventually dropped off at a church, reunited with a family member and contacted police.

On Feb. 12, while attempting to retrieve video footage and records from the Comfort Inn & Suites in Miami Springs, a clerk recognized the name and told police Hopson had just departed the hotel after not being able to pay for the room.

Police located Hopson and Thomas in a vehicle, along with a notebook that held a hand-written list of laws about being a pimp.

Hopson has a lengthy history of prostitution-related arrests in multiple states and charges for kidnapping. He was recently released from prison and is on probation out of North Carolina. Investigators say formal charges will be filed later this month.

Hopson and Tomas were arrested and both are facing felony charges of human trafficking; unlawful use of a communications device; forcing, compelling, coercing to become a prostitute; and deriving support from proceeds of prostitution.

Hopson is facing additional charges of directing another to place prostitution, and sexual battery with a deadly weapon or serious bodily injury, a life felony.