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Facebook rumors of child sex trafficking ring, not true - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Facebook rumors of child sex trafficking ring, not true, authorities say

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KTBS 3 News investigates Facebook rumors on child sex trafficking ring KTBS 3 News investigates Facebook rumors on child sex trafficking ring

KTBS has received a viewer tip, and seen Facebook posts about a possible Child Sex Trafficking Ring operating in or near the ArkLaTex. Ambrosia Rushing, mother of an 8 year old boy, lives several miles outside of Hughes Springs, Texas. A female door-to-door salesperson with a thick European accent visited her house recently. She tells KTBS "red Flags started going off when she told me that the school sent her. I got even more worried when I realized she was asking me detailed questions about my family." Ms. Rushing called the school to check out the woman's story and found that they had not sent her there to sell books. The concerned mother then called local police and wanted to warn her neighbors and other parents. At the same time, a letter from a Conway, Arkansas woman was making its way around Facebook. The letter stated that "there is a human trafficking ring operating in Faulkner Co. [Arkansas] and they are preying on young children." When different people mentioned these posts to Ms. Rushing, she grew more alarmed.

KTBS spoke with Randy Kennedy, the Chief of Police for Hughes Springs, Texas, who is confident that the European woman attempting to sell books to Ms. Rushing is not involved in a criminal enterprise to abduct children and put them in the sex trade. Kennedy tells us that the woman is known to him because she voluntarily came into the Police Department to see if she needed to be permitted to sell door to door in that area. Kennedy has a photograph of her and the information from her identification. He would be able to connect her to any crime in that area. Chief Kennedy did advise the woman that she did need a permit to sell door to door in Cass County and it appears that she did not acquire that permit. KTBS was able to independently verify that the woman who visited Ms. Rushing is indeed a registered book seller with Southwestern Advantage.

Further researching the issue, we did determine that Southwestern Advantage, does have an independent door to door sales force selling educational books nationwide, and they recruit heavily from Europe and Eastern Europe for this sales force. Most active during the summer time, these door to door salespeople have drawn attention before, because of their foreign accents, but also their questions about the children. In attempting to target sales at the right ages, reports say they are encouraged to ask about the children in the home and also to find prospects for future sales by finding out about other age appropriate children in the area. We are unable to verify if the company is providing leads and names and ages of children for sales prospects.

But what about the letter from Conway Arkansas warning of "vile acts" and asking why "there has not been an Amber Alert out or why the news media has not been informed"?  KTBS talked to the author of the letter, Sandy Ray, who intended the letter to be for her "church family" and did "not share it on Facebook." One of Mrs. Ray's employees, the mother of a nine year old, had told her about a terrifying incident at her home. In her letter, and in our conversation with her, Mrs. Ray says that her employee related to her that on Friday night, August 23rd, around 11 PM, in Greenbriar, Arkansas, the nine year old child was inside her bedroom when a man knocked on her window. The child went and told her parents about it, and the father then chased a man off from outside of the home. Though it was dark, the father felt very confident that the man he chased off from outside of his home, was the same man that had visited him at his house days before – a European man who was selling books or magazines for an unnamed company. According to Mrs. Ray, the foreign salesman had made the father uncomfortable, mainly because he knew the man's name and the age of his child.

While we are unsure if the investigation into the incident near the Bono Baptist Church is still ongoing or not, the Sheriff in Faulkner County did talk to the parent company in Nashville, TN, and verified the identity of the gentleman in the Greenbriar area. In addition, after the foreign salesman heard about the rumors, her voluntarily went to the Sheriff's office and has been interviewed by the Sheriff. The Sheriff did post a response on his website

We also checked out the claims from Mrs. Ray's letter.

We contacted Todd Stovall, Chief of Police in Paragould, Arkansas, who says he has been in contact with the Greenbriar, Arkansas Police Department, the Claiborne County Police Department, The Guy Police Department, and the Faulkner County Sheriff's Office. Stovall says, "These are small towns. We stay in contact with each other when things like this go on. We do not think that there is a criminal network abducting children." When asked about some of the specific claims in Mrs. Ray's letter, that "two little boys from the Quitman are missing and another kidnapping (two other children) failed" Chief Stovall tells us, "Not true. No, there are not two boys missing from Quitman and we do not have reports of another failed kidnapping attempt."

Another Facebook post now circulating with the account from Mrs. Ray, says that there is a suspicious individual possibly targeting children in Paragould, Arkansas. That post does not mention book sales or foreign individuals. It deals with children waiting to catch a bus on Carriage Hills Drive. We discussed this issue with Chief Stovall who tells us that a group of children did report to their School Resource officer that as they were waiting on the bus, an unknown individual, a bald, white male in a gray van with a red stripe, did approach them and that the children did feel uncomfortable and ran the other way to tell another adult. Stovall says they are attempting to make contact with the driver of the van to investigate this further. "I'm proud of the young woman for being alert and going to get a grown up. We would like to find out what his intentions were. But we do not think this is in any way connected to the reports about door to door salesman who may be in the area," Stovall said. 

While a broader ring of foreign sex traffickers does not appear to be true, isolated incidents do continue to give parents reasons to stay alert and teach their children how to avoid contact with strangers. As Sandy Ray reminds us, "we should not be in a panic, but we should be on the alert to keep our children safe."

If you need to verify a dealer really works for the company, you can check out their web site Southwestern Advantage

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