Sunday, February 18, 2018
Public safety

Licensed security officer faces human trafficking charge

TAMPA — The stranger demanded the desk clerk at the USA Inn open the door to Room 216 just before midnight Wednesday.

The clerk declined. Moments later, the man found the room. He banged and kicked at the door. When motel manager Bob Patel approached him, the man revealed the reason for his outrage.

His cousin was staying there. She is only 16.

Patel called Tampa police, who entered two rooms registered under Naba Raheem Lewis. He had checked into the motel Tuesday, Patel said.

Police arrested Lewis, 33, accusing him of prostituting two teenage girls at the motel. He faces several prostitution charges and also a human trafficking charge.

According to arrest affidavits, Lewis met the 16-year-old girls online.

They and Lewis moved into the USA Inn at 2905 N 50th St. He checked into rooms 214 and 216. One room was used as their sleeping quarters, the other for prostitution, an affidavit shows.

Lewis stashed away the money the girls made. Police found $3,840 in one of the rooms.

Before officers arrived at the motel, both girls had managed to escape, according to an affidavit. They were later found and interviewed by detectives. One girl said Lewis had threatened her with a gun when she refused to prostitute herself. She told police Lewis then took pictures of her, which he posted online along with his phone number. He would not let her leave the motel room.

"She was afraid that she would be shot or physically assaulted if she did," a report states.

Tampa police declined to say Friday how long the girls and Lewis had been staying together, saying the case is still under investigation. Police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said they believe Lewis forced at least one of the girls into prostitution.

Lewis has a criminal past in Florida that includes two arrests for domestic battery, as well as traffic-related charges, state records show. Lewis also has a security officer license that is valid through August 2014, according to records.

Other charges against Lewis include procuring a minor for prostitution, deriving support from prostitution proceeds and forcing another to become a prostitute.

Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Some experts estimate that as many as 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted each year in the United States.

Lewis was booked into the Hillsborough County jail, where he remained Friday without bail.

Times staff researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

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