Okotoks RCMP have laid sex trafficking charges after five teens were allegedly lured into prostitution through social media.
Police began investigating after a school resource officer learned local teens were allegedly recruited via social media and then exploited by adults.
“The school resource officer was able to get some information that led her to believe that there was definitely something wrong going on,” said RCMP spokesperson Jack Poitras.
The investigation revealed five teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 16 had been victimized.
Poitras said the charges are serious, especially since they involve victims as young as 13.
“Those girls are 13 to 16, so it’s just a horrific possibility,” he said.
Police are continuing to investigate this case and the victims are being assisted by Child and Family Services and Foothills Victim Services.
Okotoks RCMP have charged Samantha Pedersen, 23, of High River, with offences, including five counts of trafficking persons under the age of 18; five counts of procuring a person under the age of 18; four counts of sexual exploitation of a young person and one count of assault.
Pederson is currently in custody and will attend Okotoks Provincial Court on Oct. 28.
Though young people were targeted in this case, he said it could happen to anybody.
He said people should be careful on social media and parents, in particular, should be aware of their children’s activities online, on social media and who their online friends are.
“It definitely comes as a wake up call that you definitely don’t know what’s going on on these sites,” he said.
RCMP are asking anyone who may know any information that could assist with the investigation to contact 403-995-4202. Anonymous tips can be made to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS(8477) or online at www.tipsubmit.com