PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A man wanted for the alleged sex trafficking of two girls in Pinellas County has turned himself in.
After more than three months of searching for Julius Marcus Arline, federal agents tell the ABC Action News I-Team it was a matter of just five days after a digital billboard went up in Pinellas County with his image, offering a reward, that he turned himself in to the county jail on July 28.
He is now awaiting a federal trial for human trafficking charges.
The case started with a call to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) from the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“My agents rolled out and we were able to identify and interview two female juvenile sex trafficking victims, and we were also able to identify and arrest a female trafficker," Jennifer Silliman, HSI Tampa's human exploitation group supervisor said.
Leslie Reio is charged with sex trafficking minors.
According to an arrest affidavit for Reio, the victim said Reio was in charge of posting online ads for the victim. The victim then said Reio "would take the money that the victims gained engaging in sexual acts with other subjects."
A separate arrest affidavit for Reio states, "The defendant purchased hotel rooms for each of the juvenile victims and should have known they were minors due to the physical features of the victims. The defendant also had the victims engage in sexual acts for currency and would take a profit of what they made."
That was in March, leading to the search for Arline.
“We knew that there was another person that was involved in this scheme and we were able to identify him in our investigation as Julius Arline, and he was indicted on the same day as Ms. Reio," Silliman said. "We were not able to find him. We had used tons of law enforcement techniques to try and arrest him, identify him for arrest, we reached out to other law enforcement agencies and we just weren’t having any luck.”
That's when HSI worked with Clear Channel Outdoor to post wanted posters on digital billboards around the Tampa Bay area and sent images of the billboard to Arline's friends and family.
“This is a unique situation I’ve not seen happen here in Tampa, since I’ve been here, for 11 years," Silliman said. "As far as using it to sort of track a fugitive, I don’t believe this has been done before on a human trafficking case.”
The I-Team spoke with Arline's attorney, Grady Irvin, Jr., who said, "The nature of the charges are very concerning.”
Irvin said he has not had an opportunity yet to fully review the evidence
“In sex cases, the tough part about it is, you get jurors who essentially I think -- they all become priests, rabbis and saints. When it comes to sex. So we just hope that if we end up in a jury trial, that jurors would keep an open mind," Irvin said. "But as I said, I don’t know enough about the case yet to be able to articulate anything substantively on where we’re going to approach this from the defense standpoint.”
The I-Team reached out to Reio's attorney for comment but never heard back.
Silliman said it's important for the public to know human trafficking does not look the same in every case.
“This was happening in a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida," Silliman said of the allegations. "So it doesn’t have to be someone chained to a bed in a basement somewhere, it’s happening throughout the community."
"The traffickers, a lot of times, especially with the younger girls, they’ll get into a romantic relationship with them so the victims actually believe that it’s their boyfriend or they’ve got some sort of love interest. But a lot of times it starts like that and the next thing you know, he’s turning them into child sex trafficking victims or they’re being forced to do prostitution, to do commercial sex acts, and provide the money they make back to him," Silliman said, which is what HSI thinks happened here.
This is an ongoing case. Neither defendant has been convicted.
The investigation came together through the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, which reminds everyone, if you see something, say something.
If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect an adult is a victim of human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline or call 1-888-373-7888. If you suspect a child is a victim, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.