by Kaylin Jorge, Kathleen Serie
Monday, April 30th 2018
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Three people are facing a slew of charges in a sex trafficking bust at a Nashville hotel.
Charles Denton, Shelendia Pugh and Briane Ball are all facing multiple counts of sex trafficking. They were booked in Metro Jail on April 20, but online records show Ball is no longer in custody.
The charges all stem from a 2017 investigation into a 15-year-old girl missing from Dekalb County. A detective had searched the girl’s Facebook page and saw messages to and from Charles Denton.
The TBI report said Denton picked her up a few days before she was reported missing in August 2017. Detectives then pinged Denton’s phone to I-24 and Harding in Nashville near the Wallace Road/Linbar Road area.
Detectives are familiar with that area because there have been human trafficking arrests in that area before at and around hotels.
“In Tennessee, Nashville is a hub and the surrounding area, because we’re at the intersection of three Interstates,” End Slavery Tennessee CEO Derri Smith said. “It makes it easy to move girls, typically girls, sometimes boys, from place to place.”
Officers went to investigate at Rodeway Inn where they said Denton started following them around. At that time, an undercover officer responded through an ad on Backpage in which they pretended to be a customer looking for sexual activity.
After the exchange, an officer went into a room at the Rodeway Inn where they found two teen girls curled up on the bed.
The TBI report said Pugh came out of a bathroom and said they were all there to sell sex. At around the same time, officers came to the room took both girls into custody.
Pugh was interviewed and told police that she was “helping the girls out” by creating their Backpage accounts and helping them manage their money. Pugh also told officers she thought the girls were 19.
“It doesn’t even have to be coercion in the case of a minor,” Derri Smith said. “A minor used for commercial sex is a trafficking victim, even if they think it’s their own idea. A child who thinks it’s their idea to sell their body multiple times every day is being manipulated.”
Pugh also reportedly identified Denton as the man who had found the young girls on Backpage and was meeting up with them.
Briane Ball is also charged in connection to this case. The TBI report says he admitted to “helping out” Pugh and was found going into her room.
Both victims were taken into DCS custody.
“They’re looking for love and acceptance, or maybe they’re looking for a father figure, and they come along and sell them a dream about this happily ever after life, and tell them how special and beautiful they are, and then that dream turns into a nightmare,” Smith said.
TBI representatives declined to comment on the case, as they said it is an ongoing investigation.
According to TBI statistics, on average, a child is bought or sold for sex every two minutes, with an average age of 13. Davidson County reported at least 100 instances of minor sex trafficking in the two years leading up to a 2011 report.