LARGO — Law enforcement agencies announced four arrests Monday in two separate human-trafficking rings that they say dispatched local women and at least two juvenile girls across the Tampa Bay area for prostitution.
Donell Jenkins, 21, alleged ringleader Antron Smith, 30, and his girlfriend Stacy Jo Bumgarner, 28, all of St. Petersburg, are accused of forcing two teen girls into prostitution.
According to Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the girls, 15- and 16-year-old habitual runaways from St. Petersburg, were threatened with violence if they didn't comply.
Gualtieri said the trio advertised the girls' services in online ads and placed them in hotel rooms around Pinellas County.
Smith, Jenkins and Bumgarner are each charged with procuring a minor for prostitution, deriving support from perceived prostitution and renting space for prostitution.
Gualtieri said the case came to light overnight Saturday, when deputies were dispatched on a tip to the Knights Inn in St. Petersburg to arrest Bumgarner on a warrant out of Georgia.
Deputies found the two girls in a room with Jenkins, identified by Gualtieri as a formerly homeless man Smith hired to monitor the girls' every move.
Smith and Bumgarner were arrested after deputies found them in another room with Smith's children, ages 6 and 9. The youngsters were placed in foster care by authorities, who could not locate their mother.
Gualtieri said Smith — known as "The Trickmaster" and "Uncle" — met the 15-year-old through a mutual acquaintance about a week ago and offered to help her with a job and shelter.
"What she didn't know," he said, "is what it would involve."
He said Bumgarner, a former prostitute Smith said he rescued from the trade, taught the teen how to be a prostitute. The other girl was recruited days later.
The teens, renamed "Candy" and "Diamond," were forced to have sex with as many as five men a day who called their cellphones after viewing ads the traffickers set up on Backpage.com. Smith told the girls that "no sex acts were off the table," so, Gualtieri said, "he could make the money off the backs of these girls, literally."
The teens charged $100 to $350 for appointments set up at five motels in Pinellas Park and along the 34th Street corridor in St. Petersburg. The traffickers took 50 percent of the money.
The girls were placed in foster care after their parents refused to take them back, Gualtieri said.
Police are searching for what they believe are at least five additional victims being controlled by other employees of Smith.
The arrests happened within hours of two made Friday by the Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking in connection with a drug and prostitution enterprise involving at least 16 local women.
The task force on Monday announced the arrest of a third suspect in that case: Holly Cannarelli, 55, a transient.
According to police, Cannarelli and the two arrested Friday — Peter D. Kitt, 41, of Tampa and Shawn D. Franklin, 42, of St. Petersburg — recruited women in their 20s from strip clubs and sent them to a Pinellas brothel for training as prostitutes.
Officers said the women were encouraged to get hooked on drugs and were threatened with death or beaten if they did not service clients. The clients visited the women in bay-area hotels or other locations arranged through Backpage.com.
A Pinellas judge appointed a public defender for Cannarelli. Like Kitt and Franklin, her bail was set at $1 million.
Gualtieri said the fact that the arrests by his agency are unrelated to the trafficking task force's case is especially disturbing "because it tells me this is becoming more and more of a problem."
The sheriff said he plans to add at least two more investigators to his Crimes Against Children Unit.
The traffickers and johns "need to be held accountable for this," Gualtieri said. "This is the tip of the iceberg."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.