NewsHillsborough County


Known gang member in Tampa arrested for human trafficking, deputies believe there are more victims

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-31 05:53:50-04

TAMPA, Fla. — What started as a traffic stop in May ended with deputies charging a Tampa man with multiple counts of human trafficking.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister says 29-year-old Steven Cook is a known gang member involved in “modern-day slavery.”

Chronister said deputies launched their investigation after pulling Cook over in the parking lot of the Comfort Inn in Sun City Center for driving on a suspended license.

According to the arrest report obtained by ABC Action News, deputies said Cook refused verbal commands to put his hands on the wheel and at one point made a move towards the center console.

Deputies pulled Cook out of the car and the report states they found a loaded .40 caliber pistol.

At the time of the traffic stop, deputies noticed Cook dropped two prostitutes off at the motel. Chronister said they helped detectives work the case as they began to monitor other motels in the area.

“Because of them, we were able to talk to some prostitutes that were arrested and clearly get to the bottom of the investigation and learning they were being trafficked for sex against their will,” Chronister said.

Cook is a career criminal serving time in prison for multiple felonies.

Cook was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with Coerce for Commercial Sex Act by Human Trafficking and Deriving Support from Proceeds of Prostitution.

The Sheriff’s Office believes there are more victims. If you have information on this case or think you are a victim, call 813-247-8200.

The Sheriff's office says possible indications and/or warning signs of victims in human trafficking include:

  • Constantly accompanied by a controlling person or boss; not speaking on their own behalf.
  • Lack of control over personal schedule, money, identification, or travel documents.
  • Transported to and from work; lives and works in the same place.
  • Debt owed to employer/crew leader; unable to leave job.
  • Bruises, depression, fear, and/or overly submissive.
  • Clothing and/or accessories not age appropriate or overly sexualized.

They say if you think you have come in contact with, or have met a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 3737-888, or if emergency assistance is needed call *911.