WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) –- Two men are behind bars in Wilmington after police say they kidnapped teen sisters from North Dakota and forced them to work. And they are not the only teens involved.
Investigators say the 15- and 16-year-old sisters ran away from home in Fargo, ND, earlier this month under the impression they would make a lot of money working for a door-to-door magazine company.
"They were staying at a hotel in Lumberton, NC, and then, they moved from Lumberton to Wilmington," WPD Det. Thomas Tilmon said. "They said they made that move because law enforcement was kind of catching up to them."
Officers say the girls only made $20 for eight hours of work, and when they asked to leave, police say Jeremy Dean Moots, 22, and Justin Angermeier, 28, refused.
"Basically, they were cut off from communications, and they made requests to contact their parents, and made requests for bus tickets home, which were being denied," Tilmon said.
Investigators say the sisters were not the only teens involved in this trafficking scheme.
"Part of our operation was to go to each individual hotel room that the company had rented and make sure there were no other juveniles there. I can tell you that there were two other 18-year-old men from Knoxville, TN," Tilmon said. "They were adults, but they had also made the same claim that they wanted to go home."
Both men are charged with human trafficking, involuntary servitude, second-degree kidnapping and contributing to the delinquency and neglect of a juvenile. But in court, Moots said he is not to blame.
"I'm definitely not guilty of this," he told a judge during his first appearance.
He said he was not in control at all and only bought tickets for the girls because the company, which he said is Midwest Circulation, told him to.
While Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Roberson says Moots and Angermeier were not the masterminds of the operation, she says allegations show they were managers and were definitely in control of the girls.
Det. Tilmon says the men could face additional charges. He says if you see a child selling things door-to-door that are not Girl Scout Cookies or school fundraisers, call 911 immediately.
A WPD spokeswoman says the girls' parents have been contacted, and they are on the way to Wilmington.