A Federal Way man appeared in front of a judge on Feb. 7 after being arrested by Bellevue Police Department detectives along with the human trafficking unit earlier this week for allegedly sex trafficking two underage Oregon girls.
The 25-year-old suspect, Ezra Wimana, is being held in King County jail and now faces two counts of trafficking in the second degree, two counts of promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and one count of third-degree rape of a child, according to Bellevue police.
This investigation began weeks before the arrest when an eastern Oregon police department reached out to the Bellevue Police Department asking for assistance in finding an 11-year-old and 15-year-old, who were suspected victims of human trafficking.
The investigation uncovered that the two minors had connected with Wimana through Instagram and Snapchat. These apps are where the minors “fell prey to the trafficking scheme,” according to the Bellevue police.
Wimana allegedly transported the minors from Oregon to Washington and subjected them to various exploitative measures, including substances and sexual acts.
The Bellevue police reported the suspect, “dissatisfied with their performance,” later abandoned the two minors on the side of the road.
The minors have been reunited with their parents, and Wimana remains in custody with bail set at $500,000.
The Bellevue Police Department offered tips for parents to prevent similar incidents from occurring:
• Teach children about online safety and the dangers of interacting with strangers on social media platforms.
• Regularly monitor your children’s online interactions, including social media accounts and messaging apps, and be vigilant for any suspicious behavior or contacts.
• Foster open communication with your children, encouraging them to share any concerns or uncomfortable experiences they encounter online.
• Establish clear guidelines for online interactions and educate children about the importance of safeguarding their personal information.
• Stay informed about the latest tactics used by human traffickers to lure victims online and educate children about the warning signs of grooming and exploitation. More information can be found on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force website.
The Kirkland Police Department told the Kirkland Reporter red flags that can indicate someone might be a victim of sex trafficking:
• A person seems overly fearful, submissive, tense or paranoid.
• A person is deferring to another person before giving information.
• Person has physical injuries or brandings such as name tattoos on face or chest, tattoos about money and sex or pimp phrases.
• Clothing is inappropriately sexual or inappropriate for the weather.
• Minor is unaccompanied at night or falters in explaining who they are with and what they are doing.
• Identification documents are held by another.
• Person works long or excessive hours or is always available “on demand.”
• Overly sexual for age or situation.
• Multiple phones or social media accounts.
• Signs of unusual wealth without explanation — new jewelry, shoes and phones without any known form of income.
• A person lives in a “massage” business or is not free to come and go.