Man with Dover ties sought in Md. human trafficking probe

DOVER — Two people with Dover ties were accused of human trafficking a 17-year-old girl, Maryland police said Wednesday.

According to the Howard County Police Department, Janice Figueroa, 19, was apprehended on Feb. 8 after a sex for money encounter in a hotel room allegedly was arranged. An arrest warrant was obtained for Nathaniel Lee Thompson, 28, who authorities believe was an accomplice.

Police said an undercover officer allegedly was told sexual services with the juvenile would cost $200.

Police have accused Janice Figueroa and Nathaniel Lee Thompson of human trafficking and prostitution offenses. (Submitted photos/Howard County Police Department)

Police have accused Janice Figueroa and Nathaniel Lee Thompson of human trafficking and prostitution offenses. (Submitted photos/Howard County Police Department)

According to Howard County Police charging documents, Ms. Figueroa had a known address in the 300 block of Governors Street in Dover, among other locations. While no Governors Street exists in Dover, there is a Governors Avenue and police said the papers could have had a typo on the location.

“We believe she has been there most recently,” police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said.

The name of the hotel involved in the case was not disclosed by police.

“The hotel information is not being released because it is used in undercover operations, Ms. Llewellyn said.

Mr. Thompson’s last known address was in the 2300 block of Sheldon Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey, though both suspects are considered as transients operating out of Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, police said.

“Investigators learned that they had ties to the Dover, Delaware, area,” Ms. Llewellyn said.

Four human trafficking and two prostitution charges were entered against Ms. Figueroa, Mr. Thompson is facing similar charges, police said, The possibility of federal charges is still under review, police said.

Ms. Figueroa was held on $1 million bond at the Howard County Detention Center in Jessup, Maryland.

Maryland police said Delaware authorities have been notified. Anyone who knows of Mr. Thompson’s whereabouts should call 911 or the Howard County hotline at (410) 313-STOP. Tips also can be emailed to HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.

The incident unfolds

According to authorities, the girl was dropped off at the hotel by a woman and man in a Cadillac. Police said the Cadillac was seen parking at a nearby restaurant. Officers approached the vehicle, police said, and found Ms. Figueroa lying in the back seat.

Mr. Thompson allegedly fled from the restaurant through a back door, employees reported.

The Cadillac was searched, police said, and Mr. Thompson’s driver’s license was found inside. He was not the vehicle’s registered owner, and the owner was not named in court documents, authorities said.

Investigation found the underage girl allegedly was being taken from Delaware to Maryland and Virginia for prostitution services, authorities said. It was unknown how long the alleged operation had been ongoing, according to police.

Investigation began when police noticed an ad on the website Backpage that possibly might be promoting human trafficking. A phone call was made to the number listed in the ad, police said, and an undercover officer made an appointment.

Investigation found the suspects took a large portion of money raised in the alleged prostitution operation, police said.

The girl was placed in Child Protective Services, on the way to returning to her family, police said.

The incident was the latest in human trafficking issues in Howard County, police said.

“Howard County has launched a significant effort toward combating human trafficking,” Ms. LLewellyn said.

“We have made multiple arrests over the last few months and continue to devote attention and resources to the issue.”

Howard County has established an account to fund victims’ services and increased police training, authorities said; a second full-time detective has been tasked with investigating human trafficking cases.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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