Police investigate possible human trafficking case

Sunday, July 13th 2008, 4:28 pm
By: News 9

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- A case of human trafficking is unfolding in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Police believe the case stretches from south Georgia to Oklahoma, but ended up in Chattanooga after a call for ransom.

A Hispanic man and woman told police they went through a 15-day kidnapping ordeal from south Georgia to Oklahoma. Investigators said they escaped and hid in a Chattanooga alley.

"I heard my dogs barking and I went to see what they were barking at before I cut the grass," a nearby neighbor said. "The dogs were really raising cane and I saw two Mexican guys running down the alley like they were really trying to get away."

Police said the man and woman were trying to get away from a man. A homeowner on Morningside Drive called 911 and said a Hispanic man and woman were hiding on her back steps near the alley. While on the phone, things changed.

"Once police arrived on the scene, the homeowner advised police there was a man in the back of the residence with a gun," Sgt. Jerry Weary with the Chattanooga Police Department said.

The homeowner told the man she was on the phone with police, and he ran. Detectives believe all three had been inside a nearby Ford Expedition with darkly tinted windows and Georgia tags.

"We believe that these are two victims possibly involved in a Coyote scam," Weary said.

They left Valdosta, Georgia 15 days ago, going to Oklahoma in search of work. Once they arrived in Oklahoma, they were kidnapped, and then brought to Chattanooga.

Police spent much of the day patching the story together. They learned all three people may have been at a Hispanic store in Chattanooga. However, the man and woman told police the promise of work in Oklahoma took a drastic turn.

"They were told that the families would have to pay $10,000 for the male victim and $5,000 for the female victim," Weary said.

Chattanooga investigators are checking to see if any other victims or suspects are on the run. Right now, it's not known if the two victims are American citizens.