ST. LOUIS – Federal agents are in a race against time to find child victims of sex trafficking in the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, Southern Illinois and across the country.
Steve Wigginton, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern district of Illinois, said agents don't know where the girls are, but he said there could be many more victims and men may be buying them in known trafficking hot spots.
A 15-year-old who came to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital around 10:30 p.m. on July 25 helped federal agents break open a widespread sex trafficking case. She told agents she and four other girls were forced to have sex with men in the St. Louis area and across the country.
She said Marcus Dewayne Thompson and his wife Robin Thompson, from Park Hills, Missouri, recruited girls between the ages of 12 and 18 by promising them modeling jobs. The 15-year-old said she was walking down the street when the Marcus Thompson found her.
Her parents filed a missing person's report when she didn't come home.
Court documents said the jobs never materialized.
Kim Ritter, an anti-sex trafficking advocate, rescues children from trafficking.
"It's a grooming process," said Ritter. "You encourage the child to come in, they're (traffickers) going to take care of you, they're going to provide a better life than you had at home. They sell these kids day in and day out,"
The FBI calls the St. Louis Metro area a hub for sex trafficking. It's easy for traffickers to transport children to other parts of the country.
Court documents said the Thompson's sold the girls in Orlando, Pensacola, Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas. They were forced to have sex in the Thompson's stolen camper and in hotels.
"It's easy to take them in the car and drive. People won't get suspicious," said Ritter.
Agents said they found cell number the Thompson's used to advertise on Backpage.com. Agents said one truck driver bought a girl for $2,000.
"They take little girls and walk them from truck to truck, they call them lot lizards," said Ritter.
The girl told agents the Thompson's beat and threatened the girls to force them to comply. She said she held one girl in her arms as she died. She also told agents the Thompson's threw another girl to the alligators.
"The pimp needs to keep control of the girls, that pimp can sell her up to 20 times a day, 7 days a week," Ritter said.
The hell ended for the 15-year-old but it's still real for thousands more.
Wigginton said the Thompson's had their 9-month-old child with them when they trafficked the girls. The baby is in the custody of children and families department in Missouri.
They have a detention hearing in federal court in East St. Louis Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m.
The 15-year-old is in protective shelter getting specialized care for child victims of sex trafficking.
You can read the details of the case in the Federal Criminal Complaint below:
WARNING: The details in this case are graphic.