BELLEVUE, Wash. - Two Oregon girls under the age of 16 spent a terrifying two days caught in a local sex trafficking scheme. Earlier this week, the Federal Way man accused of trafficking them was arrested by Bellevue Police.
Police believe 25-year-old Ezra Wimana transported an 11-year-old and 15-year-old girl over 300 miles from Oregon to Bellevue and allegedly forced them to attempt to engage in sex work on Aurora Avenue in Seattle.
Wimana, who appeared before a judge on Wednesday, is charged with two counts of second-degree trafficking, two counts of promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, and third-degree rape of a child. His bail is set at $500,000.
Police say the victims fell prey to the trafficking scheme after connecting with Wimana on Instagram and Snapchat. Court documents say he went by the name "Sleez" on social media.
"This goes quick. When you leave a location… you leave home, you leave that safe space that you’re in and you get into a car, you don’t know where you’re going and what’s going to happen," explained Bellevue Assistant Chief, Andrew Popochock. "In 48 hours, many things can happen. In minutes, many things can happen and in this circumstance, bad things happened."
Wimana later abandoned the victims on the side of the road when he was dissatisfied with their performance, according to Bellevue Police.
Police say the victims were later found at a Bellevue residence and were returned to their parents.
Bellevue Police offered several tips for parents to safeguard children from similar incidents, including:
- Educate your children - Teach them about online safety and the dangers of interacting with strangers on social media
- Monitor online activities - Make sure you're monitoring your child's online interactions, including social media messaging apps
- Establish open communication - Encourage your kids to share any concerns or uncomfortable online experiences they encounter
- Set boundaries - Establish clear guidelines about the importance of safeguarding personal information
- Stay informed - Know about the latest tactics used by human traffickers to lure children
More information can be found on the Internet Crimes Against Children website.
BPD asks anyone who knows of victims of trafficking anywhere in the Puget Sound Region to contact the Bellevue Police Human Trafficking Unit at VICEHT@Bellevuewa.gov.