Fact Check

Roseville Human Trafficking Warning

Facebook post claims a teenager was abducted and coerced into sex trafficking after meeting a "scout" at a Roseville, California mall.

Published Jul 12, 2015

Claim:   A teenaged girl was drugged and forced into prostitution after meeting a young female sex trafficking "scout" at the Westfield Galleria mall (in Roseville, California).


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, July 2015]

We want to thank each and every one of you who shared my post about Kolby's disappearance. The fact that hundreds and hundreds of you took the time out of your life to share my post, search your communities, and offer prayers means the world to us. I will share what I can right now, in hopes that it might help save another child and their family from having this happen to them. This is what we know so far...

On Saturday 7/4, there was a girl in her 20's (but passing herself off as 16-17) "scouting" in the Galleria at Roseville for a sex trafficking ring. She approached Kolby and they started talking about shoes and clothes. Kolby thought she made a friend. We saw this girl and she looked like your average teen girl. There was nothing about her that indicated prostitution.

Fast forward to Monday. Kolby had been texting with this girl for 2 days. This girl convinced Kolby to sneak away from the house to "hang out" for a little while. When Kolby got in the car, the girl had her "pimp" with her. This was the point where Kolby realized something was wrong but it was too late. They took her to Sacramento, drugged her, and attempted to change her name and appearance.

Kolby was found by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department near a well known gang house in one of the worst parts of Sacramento. Her being found can only be described as a miracle. The deputy told us that she would have been dead, or sold, by morning.

There are many more gory details and I'm sure you can use your imagination. Kolby is safe now and that is what matters. However, people need to know that this CAN and DOES happen to hundreds upon hundreds of kids EVERY SINGLE DAY. We never thought this could happen to us. We were ignorant in thinking that this type of thing only happens to "dirty" or "trashy" people. The truth is, SEX TRAFFICKING does not discriminate! It is EVERYWHERE!

We were given a crash course on sex trafficking from the deputy. Malls and shopping centers are HUGE scouting locations. If you are local to us, the Galleria and Arden Fair are extremely popular. The "scouters" are usually in their 20's who can pass off as teens. They are very skilled at what they do! And boys are just as targeted as girls!

Families, PLEASE be aware of your young adults. Believe me, there is NOTHING scarier than not knowing where your child is, or if they are dead or alive! Again, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!

Origins:   In July 2015, the status message excerpted above began circulating on Facebook, reporting that a teenaged girl had been picked up by a sex trafficking "scout" who befriended her and led her into the clutches of a gang who drugged her, transported her away from her home, and attempted to force her into prostitution.

The original author of the report deleted it from Facebook, but copies of the rumor remained in circulation. In response to public inquiries, the City of Roseville Public Safety organization published the following response:

Over the weekend, Facebook posts about a formerly missing teenager from our region were widely shared on social media, and worried a lot of parents. According to the Facebook posts, a girl from a nearby county left home without permission to meet someone she had originally met at the mall in Roseville a few days earlier. She was later found by Sacramento Sheriff's deputies in their patrol area, and was returned home. Because of privacy issues, and the fact that the teen went missing from another county and then was found by another law enforcement agency outside Roseville, we won't discuss any further details.

We’ve been asked if our mall is a safe place for teenagers. It is as safe or safer than any other large public place where lots of people go to shop and socialize. The mall is a popular and heavily visited location, with a high security presence. No juveniles have ever been abducted from our mall.

On 14 July 2015, we obtained a statement from the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department that contained additional details about the incident:

I can verify one of our deputies came across two females on Auburn Boulevard/Vickers Court in North Sacramento on 7/7 at approximately 10PM. Both admitted to being in the area for prostitution purposes and no information was given to the deputy to confirm the [information in the Facebook] post. The juvenile was not a reported missing person and the parents of the juvenile were called to come pick their daughter up. The adult female had no outstanding wants or warrants and was free to leave. There were no arrests, as neither was observed in the act of soliciting for prostitution and neither female provided information of a crime being committed outside of the juvenile breaking curfew.

According to that statement, the girl in question was picked up by police due to her admission of intent to engage in prostitution-related activity (not because she had been listed as a missing person), and while in custody she made no claim of having been abducted or coerced. She was returned to her parents as a runaway with no sex trafficking investigation being opened.

However, 24 July 2015, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department issued a press release reporting that detectives had "later reviewed the circumstances of the contact and commenced an investigation" and announcing that two people had been arrested in connection with the case on charges "related to pimping, pandering, and unlawful sex acts with a sixteen year-old." That statement asserted that the victim had voluntarily contacted and accompanied the suspects and made no mention of her having been drugged:

PRESS RELEASE: Perpetrators Popped for Pimping and PanderingSacramento County Sheriff’s detectives arrested two...

Posted by Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department on Friday, July 24, 2015

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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