Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Two charged in Pinellas in connection with sex trafficking of foster child

LARGO — A woman accused of sex trafficking a 14-year-old foster child and the man deputies say purchased the teen's services have been arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Wanda Ringgo, 60, of Largo was jailed without bail Thursday on one count of human trafficking, a life felony, and one count of misdemeanor marijuana possession. She also uses the last name Taylor.

Records show that the man arrested in the case, Mohand Rashid, 25, of St. Petersburg, posted $10,000 bail Friday and was released. He was arrested Thursday on one count of lewd and lascivious battery, a second-degree felony.

According to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the teen has been in and out of foster care since age 5.

Three weeks ago, he said, she and a friend were staying a few days with Ringgo when Ringgo told the friend to leave.

Ringgo told the girl that an adult male, Rashid, was coming over for sex and that Ringgo would pocket money from the encounter.

Rashid sexually abused the girl and said he intended to return for more, authorities said.

"This is really a sad, grotesque situation," Gualtieri said, "that you have a parental figure that needs some money and is willing to prostitute out a 14-year-old girl and to have a 14-year-old be subjected to this type of activity."

The Sheriff's Office began investigating after the girl told someone, who reported the information to investigators.

Gualtieri said Rashid admitted to the encounter and that he knew the girl was underage but said he thought the girl was a couple of years older.

During questioning, Ringgo used "accusatory and derogatory" terms to describe the victim and refused to speak to investigators, the sheriff said.

Ringgo and Rashid met at a Largo convenience store where Rashid works and Ringgo is a customer, Gualtieri said.

Investigators are providing counseling and other services to the teen, who remains in the foster care system.

Authorities are investigating whether there were other victims.

The case was the Sheriff's Office's second in as many days involving sex with minors.

Leonardo Lopez-Navarro, 33, of Clearwater was charged Wednesday with sending sexually explicit text messages to two 12-year-old girls he met while working at the inflatable slides on Clearwater Beach.

Gualtieri said it's possible an increase in cases his office has seen is due to recently aggressive investigation.

However, he believes the main factor is success in the war on drugs.

"As we clamp down on drug trafficking and make strides there, they turn to other … illegal means to make money," Gaultieri said. "Unfortunately, this is the worst of the worst, because they're not just migrating from selling illegal drugs to guns to other commodities. They're doing it with young girls and young kids."

He said the Sheriff's Office will "dedicate all the resources that we have available to detecting this type of horrendous activity and putting these people in jail for a long time."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected]

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