Seven people in Florida were arrested for operating a human trafficking ring that involved a missing teenage boy they used as a “sex slave.”
According to St. Petersburg police, six men and a woman have been arrested after an 8-month-long investigation that began in May 2018. St. Petersburg police were first contacted by a Louisiana law enforcement agency, who revealed a missing 17-year-old boy from Louisiana was at a mobile home in St. Petersburg.
Investigators believe the victim was first lured through Discord, an online gaming app.
When St. Petersburg police arrived at the trailer, they not only found the missing teen, but they also discovered another 16-year-old boy living in the trailer. Four male adults, Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Curtis Lee Gruwell and Michael Wayne Schwart, were also present.
Mark Dennis told police he was the 16-year-old's biological father, but when he could not verify his claim with documentation, both teens were removed from the home.
Soon after, investigators learned the teen was not related to Dennis and had actually gone missing from Marion County almost one year earlier.
Investigators say a woman the boy knew befriended him and introduced him to Mark and Andrew Dennis. Then in 2017, the boy's mother found a note from him telling her not to try to find him.
Police believe the boy was lured with the promise of a better life, but was actually forced to live in a "filthy trailer" covered in animal feces, reported WFTV.
Over the course of 11 months, the teen "was introduced to sadomasochism and used as a sex slave by Mark and Andrew Dennis, Gruwell, Schwartz, and their associates Michael Ray Blasdel and JR Gauthier,” said police. During that time, the child did not attend school or receive medical care.
After police removed the teens from the trailer in May 2018, Mark and Andrew Dennis, Curtis Gruwell and Michael Schwartz fled from St. Petersburg and relocated in Lehigh Acres, Lee County.
With the help of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg police apprehended six of the seven suspects on Monday. Tuesday morning, the last remaining suspect turned himself in.
Police say the boy is now receiving special care designed for human trafficking victims.
(Photo: St. Petersburg Police Department)