Anthony Michael McGrath of Broward County, Florida was arrested this past week after he was accused of forcing a 17-year-old teen to prostitute herself, news sources report. McGrath, 23, was booked into police custody and charges are currently pending. It is unclear whether McGrath will qualify for a set bail bond. The press did not say whether he has obtained an criminal defense lawyer.
The 17-year-old teen, whose name has not been released, ran away from a Fort Lauderdale group home in August, reports say. It is not clear what incited the teen to leave the home. At first, the teen met up with her boyfriend and the pair rented a room in a motel, sources say. The boyfriend’s name and age were not given in reports.
To keep up with their bills, the teen’s boyfriend reportedly told her to earn money by working as a prostitute. The girl solicited herself for two weeks, reports say. When she told her boyfriend she wanted to quit and return to her group home, the boyfriend allegedly struck her in the face.
It is unclear how the teen came into contact with McGrath. However, he reportedly told her that he would “treat her better” than her boyfriend if she agreed to work with him, reports say. The teen agreed, and McGrath took pictures of her and used them to create an online prostitution ad on Backpage.com, sources indicate.
The teen worked with McGrath for three weeks, during which time she had sex with johns at two different Fort Lauderdale motels. The johns paid anywhere from around $80 to have sex with the teen, although McGrath allegedly kept all the money for himself. The teen would see as many as six to seven johns a day, sources allege.
The teen reportedly said she feared McGrath because he owned a gun. McGrath also allegedly reminded the teen there was a warrant for her arrest because she had fled her former home, making her afraid to seek help.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation found the prostitution ad advertising the girl sometime later, sources say. In an attempt to rescue her, an agent posed as a john and pretended to hire the teen for sex. The agent reportedly agreed to pay $160 for the services.
According to reports, the undercover agent met with the teen at an unspecified motel. There, a man reportedly walked the girl down to the agent’s car and asked for half the payment. McGrath allegedly observed from a balcony of a motel room. Once the man, who was not identified in reports, received the money, he shouted to McGrath that he had gotten the partial payment, sources say.
After securing the teen, police arrested McGrath. It is unclear whether the alleged accomplice was arrested. It also remains to be seen whether officers will identify or arrest the teen’s purported boyfriend or any of the johns who allegedly slept with her.
Runaways are especially at risk of falling into a life of prostitution. Over 1.6 million kids go missing every year, the National Runaway Switchboard says and other reports from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children show that there have been 1,610 cases of missing persons that involved child prostitution. “It’s an urban crime problem that no one really talks about,” an FBI spokesperson who represents the Tampa Area Crimes Against Children task force reportedly said.