COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A 17-year-old victim of human trafficking is missing in central Ohio.
The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is searching for Daniela Juneth Cruz-Rios, an unaccompanied 17-year-old girl, who is the victim of human smuggling and trafficking, according to the Columbus Division of Police. Authorities suspect that traffickers are threatening Cruz-Rios because her mother and child are in Mexico.
The Columbus police sergeant in charge of the investigation said Cruz-Rios is undocumented with no connections in this country and doesn’t speak English.
In a 5:34 p.m. update, CPD said it also had a felony warrant out for Moises Perez Jimenez’s arrest for disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile. Police tied him to Cruz-Rios’ disappearance, saying he is wanted for questioning.
Police said Jimenez may be responsible for bringing Cruz-Rios here and exploiting her, with investigators hoping if they find one, they find the other.
Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, said a security guard at a synagogue initially alerted Columbus police that something may not be right after seeing the pair.
After investigating, detectives were led to believe the girl was smuggled into the U.S. illegally and she has been trafficked for at least a year in central Ohio.
The teen was rescued in late June, at which time she was placed with a Spanish-speaking foster family by Franklin County children’s services.
Hess said the girl went missing a short time later and since then, police have been working with Homeland Security, children’s services, and U.S. Marshals to recover her and the man tied to her disappearance.
According to Hess, the case is more difficult to crack because the victim lacks what law enforcement often uses to start a search.
“Unfortunately, one of the most challenging aspects of a child who is undocumented and unaccompanied is that we don’t have cell phones for them,” Hess said. “Most of them don’t have a cell phone, most of them don’t have social media, they don’t speak English, so our normal means of pinging cell phones or tracking their social media, we can’t use.”
CPD asked anyone with information about the teen or Jimenez’s whereabouts to call them at 614-645-4545, or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-8477.