Police launch investigation into possible human trafficking of teen girls at Indianapolis house

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Indianapolis authorities are investigating a case of possible human trafficking involving a 16-year-old girl. CBS4 spoke with the teen and her guardian, who was determined to save her.

The 16-year-old girl told CBS4 News she ran away from home on June 30 and was picked up at a west side convenience store by a man she knew as, “Rob Gates.” The 18-year-old man asked the girl if she wanted to party, but upon their arrival at an abandoned home in the 3800 block of Rookwood Avenue in the South Butler Tarkington neighborhood she said she was told she would be a prostitute.

The girl said she was instructed to have sex with at least four men over the course of 16 days, as her captors took money while indulging themselves with drugs and toying with guns.

The teen said she watched as another girl was beaten for contracting a sexually transmitted disease and was suspicious there might be other underage girls at the house, which she described as vermin-ridden with no running water or food.

IMPD had taken a runaway report at the address on June 26 and investigated a complaint by a neighbor July 3, just a few days after the teen said she was taken captive.

“Some of the kids in the neighborhood told me they were prostituting underage girls out of the house,” the neighbor told CBS4 News. “It kind of culminated in the beginning of July that I heard a young girl in the house getting beaten and so I called 911 and the police officers did come out but they said there was nothing they could do. It was just my word.”

An IMPD report indicates the officer knocked at the door, received no response and filed a written summary.

The teen’s guardian told CBS4 News she had been searching for the girl since her disappearance at the end of June, occasionally connecting with IMPD Missing Persons detectives, but received a break this past Friday night when the girl texted the address to her boyfriend.

The neighbor said she met with the teen’s guardian late Sunday afternoon during the search for the teen.

“Someone had let her know that her daughter had been at this address,” said the neighbor. “We went and got her and they were able to take her home safely.”

The girl said that while she was free to walk the neighborhood to a house for showers and food. She said she was too intimidated to escape and felt she was always under observation by the squatters in the abandoned house.

“There’s a lot of activity at the house. Fighting. Shouting. They threatened kids over here with guns,” said the nearby resident. “The neighbors have called the police a few times and I know that some people have talked to investigators and I actually called police when I saw one of the young girls being beaten.”

IMPD said the case is under investigation.

The girl told CBS4 News she was informed that a detective was seeking a search warrant to find evidence that would confirm her story and the worst suspicions of neighbors.

The teen said the ringleader claimed the house was once owned by his deceased grandmother.

Two men associated with the girl’s account and the Rookwood Avenue home were arrested in a stolen car July 11.

The driver was charged with resisting by fleeing and the man claiming to be the grandson of the former owner was jailed on an escape charge related to the removal of a court-ordered GPS monitoring unit due to a previous burglary arrest.

The girl said the resident and his friends were committing vehicle burglaries in their neighborhood and bragging about taking part in armed robberies.

She said she was forced to ingest drugs during her captivity.

The property where the house sits is strewn with paperwork and clothing that would be indicative of the teenager’s account of other young girls held captive at the house.

A new state law treats underage teenagers discovered during prostitution investigations as victims and not suspects.

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