Man accused of trafficking teenager at Plantation hotel

17-year-old girl said Joseph Lewis, 34, put ad up on Backpage

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

PLANTATION, Fla. - A man is facing multiple charges after he prostituted a 17-year-old girl at a hotel in Plantation last week, authorities said.

According to an arrest report, Joseph Junior Lewis, 34, took the girl in a taxi to a La Quinta Inn at 8101 Peters Road on Friday.

Police said Lewis paid cash for the room and then posted an ad on Backpage.com, using the victim's cellphone number as a point of contact for men who wanted to have sex with her.

The victim, who is from North Fort Myers, told detectives that she did not know that Lewis had posted the ad until she received numerous calls from men who later went to the hotel to have sex with her in exchange for money.

The girl told police that seven to eight men paid for sex and she gave the money to Lewis.

Police said the girl told Lewis repeatedly that she didn't want to have sex with the men, but Lewis told her that she owed him money for helping her out. She said Lewis also told her that he had friends watching the room, so she was afraid to run out.

The teenager said some of Lewis' friends stopped by the room to collect the money, so she believed that they were indeed watching the room.

The girl screamed for help at one point and said she was prepared to jump out of the fourth-floor window in an attempt to escape, the report said.

Detectives said Lewis also raped the victim inside the hotel room.

Plantation police officers went to the hotel on Saturday with the assistance of road patrol officers after they received a tip from private detective John Rode, who investigates child exploitation cases.

"She looked 17, young and scared," Rode said.

Police said the girl was alone in the room when officers arrived and allowed police to go through her cellphone to see text messages from Lewis, confirming that he was her pimp.

Police said Lewis texted the girl that he was on his way to the hotel, so plain clothes officers waited for him and arrested him as he knocked on the hotel room door.

Detectives said Lewis admitted that he rented the room and had a white female matching the victim's description staying with him.

Lewis was arrested on charges of human trafficking and sexual battery on a minor.

"The comfort and safety of our guests is our top priority at La Quinta," the hotel said in a statement. "La Quinta practices a zero tolerance policy for criminal behavior. We fully cooperated with law enforcement throughout the entire investigation and resulting arrest, and we maintain an open line of communication with local authorities in an effort to prevent such incidents from occurring to the best of our ability."

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