A youth pastor and a foster parent have been arrested in Hillsborough County on multiple charges including human trafficking after they had sex with minors they met online, deputies said.
Moises Escoto, 36, of Temple Terrace and Joel Lutz, 38, a Pasco County resident, were both arrested this month, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Escoto, at the time of his arrest, was a youth pastor at Iglesia de Cristo Misionera Mahanaim Church in Tampa, and Lutz was a registered foster parent, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation on Feb. 9 and arrested Escoto the same day after a mother found “disturbing content” on her 16-year-old child’s cellphone, a news release issued Friday said. Detectives learned that Escoto contacted the teen two years earlier on a chat and meetup app called Sniffies. Escoto solicited the teen for sexually explicit photos and videos in exchange for money and gifts, and also met up with the teen and engaged in sex acts, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
During that investigation, detectives discovered that Lutz had met a minor on Sniffies app and paid the minor for sex, the Sheriff’s Office said. The Sheriff’s Office did not release that minor’s age. Lutz was arrested on Wednesday.
Both men face several charges, including human trafficking for commercial sexual activity, lewd or lascivious battery, use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts and unlawful sex with a minor.
Escoto was being held in the Hillsborough County jail on Friday with bail set at $138,500, records show. Booking records list his occupation as a business analyst for a credit union.
Lutz also still was in jail Friday with bail set at $280,500. Booking records show he lives in Trinity and works as a restaurant manager.