By Farrah Fazal
ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (KSDK) - The St. Charles County prosecutor is about to take his very first sex trafficking case to court.
He said the case was a wakeup call. It shows him sex trafficking is happening in suburbia.
Tim Lohmar said the case landed in his lap after officers got an anonymous tip that something suspicious was going on at the Red Roof Inn on Interstate 70 at Zumbehl.
Officers found a man and his girlfriend forcing, coercing, and verbally abusing an 18-year-old single mother and her 19-year-old friend into having sex with many men for money.
"They were probably easy prey," said Lohmar. The girls were strapped for cash. They were struggling to feed their babies, he said.
Officers were able to rescue the girls. Lohmar charged Michael Johnson and Samantha Ginochhio with trafficking the girls. He said Ginochhio found the customers, arranged the hotel and the financial details. Johnson kept the cash.
"The traffickers have a calculated plan to keep these people on the hook, to keep the victims working for them," said Lohmar. He said it didn't start out that way.
He said Johnson recruited one of the girls at a restaurant. He promised her she could make a lot of money quickly. He said the girls knew they would have to have sex for money. They didn't know they wouldn't be able to stop.
"They were ready to stop, but they couldn't stop, because they didn't feel they were able to stop, they felt they would suffer some physical harm," said Lohmar. He said the couple may have had many more victims officers may never find.
"I am scared to find out. We are just starting to understand the breadth of these types of operations, how far reaching they are into communities like ours," he said. We went to Red Roof Inn to get answers. A clerk told us to leave and gave us a phone number. We called the number and left a message.
Lohmar said he doesn't have enough officers to rescue all the victims flying under the radar in his county.
He's determined to take Johnson and Ginochhio to court for what they took from at least two teen mothers struggling to survive.
A judge signed arrest warrants for Michael Johnson and Samantha Ginochhio Wednesday afternoon.
The fugitive task force is now looking for them.