GORHAM, Maine — Three Gorham residents were arrested Monday and charged with sex trafficking in a case that allegedly involved a 19-year-old girl being forced to engage in sex acts to pay off a debt.
Klein Fernandes, 27, and Tamika Dias, 24, were charged with aggravated sex trafficking and Jeremy Seeley, 21, was charged with sex trafficking, according to a release from Cumberland County Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam.
An ongoing joint investigation begun late last week by Gorham and South Portland police and the FBI, working with the Preble Street Teen Center, allegedly revealed that Dias had advertised on Backpage.com that the victim was available for sex, according to Elam.
Fernandes and Seeley allegedly took her to multiple locations in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties, where she allegedly was required to engage in sex acts with strangers who paid for those acts, Elam said.
The alleged victim fled when she learned she might be “sold” to a “pimp” from Boston, Elam said.
Citing an ongoing investigation, Elam declined to say Tuesday whether she expects more arrests or whether there are more potential victims. She also declined to say where the girl is from.
“The statute requires that in order to be charged with aggravated sex trafficking, the victim must be required to do sex acts for money to work off a debt,” Elam said. “That’s what was happening with her.”
Investigators executed a search warrant Friday at the the suspects’ shared home at 19 Woodland Road in Gorham, at which time all three allegedly admitted to the allegations.
Aggravated sex trafficking, a Class B felony, carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison for each offense. Sex trafficking is a Class D crime with a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail for each offense.
Fernandes and Dias remain at Cumberland County Jail on Tuesday, held on $25,060 cash bail. Seeley was held on $100 cash, according to a jail official.
All three are scheduled to appear in Cumberland County Unified Court on Wednesday.
“As we see increasing numbers of people being trafficked, we are working closely with law enforcement and other service providers to keep these young women and other victims safe,” Daniella Cameron, manager of the Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition, said in the release.
“Sex trafficking can happen anywhere there are vulnerable victims and people willing to exploit their poverty, desperation or hopelessness,” Elam said. “Sex trafficking is not just a third-world problem, nor is it just a big city problem. It is happening in our own Maine communities with alarming frequency. This presents a new challenge to law enforcement and requires all of us to open our minds to the possibility that those engaged in ‘prostitution’ may very well be victims more than criminals.”
To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.