Police: Missing Augusta Teen May Be Involved in Human Trafficking
The case of a missing girl from Augusta County may have turned into a parent's worst nightmare. Authorities believe 16-year-old Jennifer Carolina Romero may be caught up in human trafficking.
The Fort Defiance High School student was originally reported as a runaway. Investigators say someone picked Romero up from her home in Weyers Cave on Saturday. Her mobile phone was turned off or disabled that evening, but not before its signal was traced to Arlington.
The Augusta County Sheriff's Office says Romero had been in Facebook contact with a man who convinced her to go to Northern Virginia. He fears the teen fell into a trap set for runaways.
"She'll do whatever they tell her to do just to survive," said Fisher, "whether that be prostitution or running drugs or whatever. But normally in this type of case, a 16-year-old female is used as a sexual object."
There has been one arrest in the case, 19-year-old Mynor Franco-Depaz of Arlington. He's thought to be Romero's social-media contact, and is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The sheriff hopes the arrest helps unravel a "spider web" that may be hiding the missing girl. But it's been nearly a week since she has made any sort of contact with people back home. Romero's Facebook page was also taken down soon after her disappearance, and Fisher warns that fits the profile of human traffickers.
"They get lured into that trap, all communication is cut off with family and friends," the sheriff says, "and they'll whisk away to wherever, to do whatever."
Romero stands five feet two inches, and weighs about 220 pounds. She has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone with information about the case is urged to call the Augusta County Sheriff's Office at (540) 245-5333.