At the Motel 6 in Lantana this spring, Steven Snipe met a runaway teenage girl who told him she was being pimped out by two men who were being violent with her, authorities said Monday.
He promised the teen he would take care of her, then had sex with her and later advertised her sexual services on the website Backpage, police said. For as much as $250 an hour, Snipe reportedly sold the girl for sexual sexual services, keeping all of the profits for himself.
On June 30, Boynton Beach police arrested Snipe, 26, of suburban West Palm Beach on three counts of lewd and lascivious behavior on a person older than 12 and younger then 16. He also could face charges of human trafficking and child pornography. Authorities said Monday they are waiting for court-approved searches of his cellphone and an undisclosed hotel room in Boynton Beach to be completed.
Human trafficking — described as a modern-day slavery — has become a top law-enforcement concern in South Florida. It has been described as the use of force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts, labor or other services against their will.
At least 10 people in Palm Beach County have been arrested this year for alleged sex or labor trafficking. In June, Martin County authorities made their first arrest of the year for human trafficking. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg credits a 10-member task force formed in January for the growing number of arrests.
According to a police arrest report, the girl told investigators she met Snipe at the Motel 6 about two months ago. About a month later, Snipe began to “pimp her out” to multiple customers. In the days prior to his arrest, Snipe allegedly became violent with the teen and punched her in the face and three her against a wall.
Authorities say Snipe used a cellphone to record his sexual encounters with the teen. After being taken into custody, Snipe reportedly told police he had sex with the girl, but believed she was of legal age. He denied posting her identity on Backpage. Investigators said they notified the Florida Department of Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security about the teen girl.
If Snipe is charged with human trafficking, it would be third such case in Boynton Beach this year. In May, city police arrested Marco Orrego, alleging that he forced a teen into prostitution and advertised her for sexual services on Backpage.
In February, Jackson Poinvil, 21, of West Palm Beach and Jimmy Edmond, 27, Christopher Thomas, 23, both of Port St. Lucie, were accused of kidnapping a 19-year-old woman from a home in Boynton Beach and advertising on Backpage. Orrego is also facing federal charges after grand jury indicted him on charges of sex trafficking involving a minor, production of child pornography and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity.
Their cases are due for status updates in August, court records show.