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Traffic stop in Valley Mills leads to human trafficking bust

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 19:33:55-04

VALLEY MILLS, Waco — A Valley Mills Police Officer pulled a Honda Pilot over just off Highway 6 Saturday night around 10:10 p.m. It happened because of a broken headlight, but ended up being a lot more serious.

The driver did not have proper identification and when the officer looked into his background, he saw a lot of red flags.

"Turns out he had a suspended ID card," Valley Mills Police Chief Roy Fikac said. "He also had some other history that was red flags on his driving record, which enhanced suspicion of the officer that maybe something else is going on other than the headlight."

The officer called for backup and asked the driver to step out of the vehicle. One by one police evacuated nine other people from the car.

"Pretty remarkable that many people even fit in there," Chief Fikac said. "They had to be sitting right on top of one another. However the windows were so tinted on the back of the car when the officer made his approach, he could not see in the rear window or the side windows."

Many of them did not have IDs, except for one who turned out to be a missing person out of Los Angeles.

Police believe it’s a human trafficking case.

"I think that much like the coronavirus, this is a pandemic across the nation," Chief Fikac said. "Worldwide. It's worldwide."

The Valley Mills area is one of the higher-risk places, as is Waco. According to Unbound, the location is called the Texas Triangle. It's where interstates cross connecting Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.

Unbound Waco CEO Susan Peters told 25 News a large majority of trafficking victims are minors and they are often targeted online.

Peters said parents need to know the signs.

"Get involved and ask questions to find out what's going on," she said. "Know your child's social media apps, put your computers in common areas, put safeguards on websites."

While police could not share exact information about the ages of the victims from Saturday's bust, they did say they are all now being cared for.