Woman says she was held captive by family in Cleveland, escaped human trafficking

CLEVELAND– A woman from the West African country of Gambia told police she was held captive by a family in a downtown Cleveland apartment.

The 31-year-old victim spoke with officers on Oct. 15 after she was able to escape from the unit at Reserve Square, according to the police report.

She told police she was sold to a family from Kuwait and spent the last four years living with them in the Middle Eastern country as a caretaker for a sick, elderly woman. According to the police report, they brought her to Cleveland on Aug. 12 so the grandmother could receive treatment at the Cleveland Clinic.

The woman said she didn’t have a chance to escape earlier because the family was always around and when they would leave, they would lock her in a bedroom of the apartment on East 14th Street. On Oct. 16, the family left and the woman called a victim advocate, who told her to leave while he contacted the Cleveland Division of Police.

The victim told officers she feared for her life, stating she didn’t want to go back to the family and if she went home to Gambia, she would be killed.

Officers worked with security at Reserve Square to locate a possible apartment where the woman was held against her will. The unit was listed as vacant and there was no response when officers knocked. According to the police report, they opened the door and found the apartment was unoccupied and there was the smell of hookah.

Cleveland police found housing for the woman as they continue their investigation.

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