It’s a look inside the tragic life of a sex trafficking victim. A Texas woman is testifying in a St. Louis courtroom, speaking against the man accused of bringing her here to sell her body.
The federal indictment tells the story of the ultimate control the accused sex trafficker had over the woman, even down to when she could eat.
Thomas Szczerba is on trial accused of bringing the woman from Houston to St. Louis to sell her for sex.
The indictment states that he, along with Keisha Edwards, advertised the woman on trafficking sites and rented hotel rooms in St. Louis to carry out the prostitution.
The paperwork states the couple met the woman in the summer of 2015 where she was working as an exotic dancer in Houston, coerced her into prostitution and sold her body in several states.
Szczerba is accused of threatening her, monitoring her movements and cell phone and even dictating when she could eat as a way to control her.
“Control is a really major aspect in trafficking relationships,” said Hope Jernagan, who runs Magdalene St. Louis, a non-profit facility for survivors of sex-exploitation and addiction.
Her beds are almost always full and there's a waiting list.
She's not surprised the woman was taken to St. Louis. It's a sex trafficking hot spot, according to Jernagan, because of its centralized location.
“Also, there's a lot of poverty in St. Louis and what we do know is that where there's high population a of people living below the poverty line, there's also a huge correlation of trafficking victims and traffickers,” said Jernagan.
Szczerba is also accused of not letting the woman rest until she reached her daily quota of one-thousand dollars.
His trial continues in federal court in downtown St. Louis. His accomplice, Keisha Edwards, pled guilty.