COLUMBIA, SC Two men and a woman have been arrested on prostitution charges after Richland County sheriff’s deputies conducted an undercover operation to find a missing 15-year-old girl, who was being advertised as an escort.
Tavia Arrianne Singleton, 25, and Marc Powell, 28, have been charged with prostitution of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Jerome Levert Walker, 24, has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, prostitution of a minor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to a press release from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
Singleton and Powell are each being held on a $100,000 bond while Walker is being held without bond. All three are at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, according to booking information at the jail.
Investigators found the 15-year-old being advertised as an escort on the Backpage.com website, said Sgt. Curtis Wilson, a sheriff’s department spokesman. Deputies rescued her on Tuesday.
The 15-year-old’s family told sheriff’s investigators the girl left home just before 7 p.m. Oct. 24 and did not return. Investigators questioned family and friends and determined that it was uncharacteristic for the victim to leave without telling her family where she was going, the press release said. Investigators believed the girl was coerced and held against her will.
During the search, “investigators determined that the missing juvenile may have been a victim of human trafficking and may have been unduly influenced by Singleton, Powell and Walker to become a prostitute,” the press release said.
Deputies are checking to see if more girls may be invovled in similar situations. Anyone with information should call the sheriff’s department’s special victims unit at (803) 576-3115. All callers will be treated with compassion and confidentiality, the press release said.
The investigation is ongoing, Wilson said.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.