A man and his alleged accomplice are facing charges in Miami-Dade after authorities say they were responsible for a sex trafficking case involving an 18-year-old girl.
Saint Matthew Hopson, 32, was arrested on charges including human trafficking, sexual battery with a deadly weapon, forcing, compelling, or coercing someone to become a prostitute and unlawful use of a communications device, according to a release from Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
His alleged accomplice, 19-year-old Atilia Cleto Thomas, faces similar charges.
Prosecutors say the victim, who lived in Lakeland, met Hopson through a dating social media platform in January, and he allegedly began grooming the victim by making her believe he was interested in having a romantic relationship with her.
Hopson later drove to Lakeland to meet the victim then drove her to Miami and brought her to a hotel in Miami Springs, prosecutors said.
Hopson allegedly told the victim he managed an escort service and
introduced her to Thomas, then took the victim shopping to Victoria’s Secret and later had her pose for cell phone pictures
in the garments he purchased for her, prosecutors said.
Without the victim's knowledge or consent, Hopson sent the photographs to Thomas and instructed her to post the victim's photographs to an online escort service platform under the title "I'm new to the game," prosecutors said.
Hopson allegedly told the victim that Thomas would be the one having sex with the male clients, but Thomas later told the victim that she would have to have sex with a customer "or we will lose $600.00," prosecutors said.
After some back and forth, the victim attempted to comply with Thomas’ demands but was unable to fulfill the requests. Thomas ended up performing the sexual act on the buyer and the $300 payment was allegedly taken by Thomas and given, in full, to Hopson, authorities said.
On January 16, while at the hotel, Hopson had several instances of sexual contact with the victim against her will, prosecutors said.
When the victim told Hopson she did not want to engage in prostitution and wanted to go home, Hopson allegedly told the victim he had just gotten out of prison for human trafficking and kidnapping and he would kill her if she called police, prosecutors said.
Hopson then demanded that the victim provide him with the address of one of her family members as potential leverage against the victim calling the police, authorities said.
Hopson and Thomas later drove the victim back to Lakeland, dropping her off at a church.
Authorities were notified and the victim was able to positively identify Hopson and Thomas’ photographs, prosecutors said.
On February 12, while attempting to retrieve video footage and records from the hotel in Miami Springs, a clerk recognized
the name and said that Hopson had just departed the hotel after not being able to pay for the room, authorities said.
Miami Springs Police located Hopson and Thomas, who were detained. When officers searched the car they were in they found a notebook that Thomas indicated belonged to Hopson, containing a hand-written list of laws about being a "pimp," prosecutors said.
Authorities said Hopson has a lengthy history of prostitution-related arrests in multiple states and charges for kidnapping. He also appears to have recently been released from prison and he indicated that he is currently on probation in North Carolina.
Hopson and Thomas were booked into jail in Miami-Dade. Attorney information wasn't available.
"This human trafficking victim was allegedly groomed for sexual exploitation through the use of social media by Saint Matthew Hopson. Despite his name, we are alleging that Hopson’s actions and activities indicate that he is
not a saint but an exploiter of the naivete of our young for his personal profit,” Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “The dangerous misuse of social media cannot be overstated. All parents need to be familiar with these dangers before something terrible or unfortunate occurs to their loved ones.”