The day a Homestead woman began prostituting out two teenage girls who ran away from the Florida Keys Children's Center in Tavernier last summer, she was serving the first day of a five-year probation sentence "for a virtually identical case," according to federal prosecutors.
The girls were allegedly driven to the Motel 6 in Cutler Bay on Aug. 15, where the woman, Sandra Simon, was waiting for them. They were allegedly driven there by Ricky Atkins, a shelter staffer whose job was to mentor the facility's at-risk children. Prosecutors state in recently filed court documents that Atkins, 28, "persuaded" the girls "to run away from the shelter and work as a prostitute for him."
The girls, then ages 15 and 16, were used for prostitution at the Motel 6, but not before Atkins took them to a house in Homestead, where they were "tested" by several men, prosecutors say.
The girls were embarking on a horrific journey that included paid sex with several other adult men throughout South Florida.
"Over the course of the next several days, the minors engaged in multiple prostitution dates for Simon at various hotels, which were booked by Simon," Assistant U.S. Attorney Elina A. Rubin-Smith wrote in a January filing.
The girls' ordeal ended bizarrely on Aug. 24 in Sarasota County when police there found the two teens in the back seat of a car driven by a 22-year-old stripper from Homestead. In the passenger seat was Robert Munoz, 25, an electrician from Miami.
The latest filings detail how the girls may have ended up with the stripper, Claudia Gomez, 22, and Munoz.
Although never naming Gomez or Munoz, Rubin-Smith wrote that "a male and a female adult" joined Simon and the girls at a hotel in the Miami area. Simon reportedly got in some sort of argument or altercation with the couple on Aug. 20, and the couple left Miami-Dade with the girls.
In a strange twist, Simon texted an assistant state attorney to report that the girls ran away with the adult couple. This state attorney was the same lawyer who prosecuted Simon in a separate child prostitution case involving a 16- and 17-year-old girl. To receive probation, Simon pleaded guilty in that case to posting escort advertisements online, renting hotel rooms and "driving the teens to prostitution dates," according to court files.
At the direction of the prosecutor, Simon called the police and told them the girls left with a man who was using them for prostitution.
Regarding the situation, Simon sent Atkins a text message stating: "They minors, them girls come with two [sic] many risk."
Atkins and Simon could not be reached for comment. They are both in federal jail awaiting trial, which is scheduled for April 6 at 9:30 at the Miami federal courthouse.
They both pleaded not guilty to one count each of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors and two counts each of sex trafficking of minors. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The U.S. Justice Department does not discuss open cases, so it is not clear what happened to Munoz and Gomez. There are no charges filed on either of them related to this case. When Sarasota County police found them with the girls in August, they were responding to a hit-and-run call.
Two women said Gomez and Munoz repeatedly rear-ended their vehicle and that Munoz got out of his car and angrily confronted them. The women were the first to see the girls in the backseat.
Gomez initially faced two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of child abuse, one count of driving with a suspended license and one of driving under the influence of alcohol. Only the latter two charges remain.
Munoz was arrested on two felony counts of aggravated battery and two child abuse counts. All four counts were dismissed Sept. 26, according to Sarasota County records.