End Human Trafficking Now

Officials vow to keep human trafficking out of Coweta

By Wes Mayer

No Human Trafficking In Coweta

Although there are no pending cases in the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office or the district attorney’s office, Coweta investigators are prepared to put their foot down if human trafficking reappears in the county.

Last week, Derrick Leon Holloway and Lavaris Cisco Clark were found guilty of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and aggravated child molestation in Coweta County Superior Court. Both men were sentenced to serve 40 years in prison plus life on probation in what was the first human trafficking case in Coweta County history.

“Human trafficking is on the forefront of law enforcement efforts,” said Coweta County Investigator Ryan Foles, the lead investigator in the case. “It’s something we’re not going to tolerate.”

After Holloway and Clark were arrested in October 2013, Foles said investigators knew there was a new type of case pending in the county. In February, members of the sheriff’s office, Newnan Police Department, Coweta County District Attorney’s Office and Coweta County Juvenile Court attended a human trafficking symposium at Cornerstone United Methodist Church.

“End Human Trafficking Now” was hosted by local Rotary clubs and featured guest speakers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Wellspring Living, a Georgia-based shelter for victims of human trafficking.

After the symposium, investigators were able to form a relationship with the guest speaker from Wellspring Living, Mary Francis Bowles. Together the group toured the facility, which is in an undisclosed location for the victims’ protection. A representative of Wellspring Living was also one of the state’s witnesses in Holloway’s and Clark’s trial, and she helped the jury understand the characteristics of human trafficking victims.

“The conventional thinking,” Foles said, “is that when a girl is prostituting herself, she wants to do it. She appears willing, but that’s not the case. There is something behind the scenes.”

In the case of Clark and Holloway, the 15-year-old victim lived at a hotel off I-85 at Exit 41. Her father was addicted to methamphetamine and she had no other family or friends.

She met Clark and Holloway. The men gave her the attention she desired and she soon found herself wrapped up in a small prostitution organization.

According to Foles, investigators are still working with the victim. Authorities are working to bring the victim together with Wellspring Living and to obtain resources to fund her future education. She is receiving treatment from multiple sources.

In April, Foles and Sgt. Jason Fetner with the sheriff’s office attended a specialized analytic seminar at the Georgia Tech Global Learning Center. Investigators received 20 hours of training on human trafficking from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal Department of Homeland Security. Foles and Fetner have continued training.

“The Moreland exit of I-85 where the Holloway and Clark case was based, is an area that attracts this type of crime,” Foles said.

Investigators have not received any further reports of prostitution or human trafficking in the county.

The most recent arrest was in June, when Foles took part in an undercover investigation with the GBI. The investigation targeted 100 suspects, two were targeted in Newnan. The two women turned out to be adults from metro Atlanta. The women were arrested for prostitution at a hotel near Walmart on Bullsboro Drive.

“In most cases, prostitutes do not live in Newnan or Coweta County,” Foles said. “Instead, they will set up meetings on social media sites, travelling from Atlanta to meet the men.”

Investigators regularly monitor social media sites for activity.

After the shock of the case against Holloway and Clark, Foles doesn’t think Newnan will see any human trafficking activity in the near future. The case brought awareness to the both citizens and to the criminal community.