Florida Keys

Court file: Sex-trafficking suspect ‘tested’ teen girls in Homestead

Disturbing new details emerged this week in the federal sex-trafficking case against a former Florida Keys Children's Shelter worker accused of leading two teen girls, then-residents of the shelter, into prostitution.

Until now, all that was known about the government's case against Ricky Jermaine Atkins was that he was accused of driving the girls to a motel in Miami-Dade County and that a Homestead woman, Sandra Simon, photographed the girls and arranged prostitution meets.

But a new court filing, an order that Key Largo resident Atkins, 28, be held in federal lockup until his trial is over, alleges he was heavily involved in every step of the victims' descent into prostitution.

Atkins was initially arrested on state charges Sept. 10. He was fired from the shelter that day.

Perhaps the most serious allegation in the Dec. 18 detention order is that Atkins, whose job at the shelter was to supervise at-risk children, "tested" the girls, ages 15 and 16, before delivering them to the Cutler Bay Motel 6 on Aug. 15. "Tested" means the girls were forced to have sex with three adult men at a house in Homestead.

"The charges against Atkins are serious," U.S. Magistrate Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes wrote in the document. "The weight against Atkins is substantial."

Atkins, who could not be reached for comment, pleaded not guilty on Dec. 15 to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors and two counts of sex trafficking of minors. A grand jury indicted Atkins and Simon on the same charges Dec. 9.

If convicted, they each face life in federal prison, and a minimum of 10 years. Simon's first court appearance was Friday.

According to the detention order, Atkins "delivered" the minors to Simon at the Motel 6. Simon photographed the girls and posted their pictures in an online advertisement for prostitution.

"Over the course of the next several days, the minors engaged in multiple dates," Otazo-Reyes wrote.

Federal prosecutors say Atkins returned to the motel several time to collect money from Simon — money the girls earned through paid sex, according to court documents. He also delivered a prepaid cellphone to Simon "that would facilitate the arrangement of the minors' prostitution dates."

Prosecutors also say they have several text messages from Atkins' phone where he discussed the "minors' ongoing prostitution."

"These text messages included concerns that co-workers from the Children's Shelter would see Atkins with the minors; multiple inquiries from Atkins to Simon regarding the status of the minors' prostitution activities; and requests from Atkins to take possession of prostitution earnings from Simon," Otazo-Reyes wrote.

Otazo-Reyes stated in the detention order that she did not consider Atkins a flight risk because he is a lifelong South Florida resident, with a live-in girlfriend of eight years in Key Largo, with whom he is raising three children.

However, the magistrate does consider Atkins a "danger to the community because his job at the Children's Shelter put him in a position of trust supervising at-risk youth, and that trust was violated by his recruitment of the minors to engage in prostitution, his transportation of the minors from Tavernier to Homestead for that purpose, and his continued involvement in their prostitution activities."