Tampa man arrested for drug possession, linked to sex trafficking case

Posted at 5:38 AM, Oct 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-10 10:24:43-04

Tampa Police arrested a man for drug possession after they found drugs and an underage teen at the suspect's home. 

"It's violation if they're not old enough to make a sound judgement to make a choice," said neighbor and grandmother Toby Jones.

Jones is horrified. 

"Her mother told me she was 13. She showed me a picture of her," she said. 

Tampa Police discovered the runaway teen, just 13-years-old, inside the home on North Myrtle Street in Tampa.

Jones says the teen's mother came to her asking for help to find her daughter.

A search warrant says the 42-year-old suspect, Cedric Jamal Gatlin, who was living here in Tampa, gave her drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, then pimped her out to his friends for cash.

"Make the phone call. If you're wrong, you're wrong. You may save someone's life," said Executive Director Miracles Outreach Michelle Walker.

Miracles Outreach, a Tampa non-profit helps young women escape sex trafficking and rebuild their lives. 

Advocates say the victims they see are getting younger and younger.

"I think when we first started, we were talking about 16 and 17-year-olds. Now you're seeing 13, 12," said Operations Manager Miracles Outreach Sonia Jordan.

Jordan says young girls are often lured by promises of gifts and sometimes even recruited by kids their own age who are also being exploited.

"New cell phone. Expensive clothing or shoes. Something you know, you didn't purchase or you know that child doesn't have the means of getting it. Start questioning it," said Jordan.

The teen who was found by police is now back at home.

"If someone was doing this to his daughter, how would it make him feel," said Jones.