KNOX COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A missing Knox County girl was found in Cincinnati earlier this week, and police believe she may have been a victim of human trafficking.
Three people have been arrested in the case and charged with crimes including human trafficking.
Police arrested 34-year-old Michael Nason, 29-year-old Tiffany Cheek and 27-year-old Carl Hickman in the case.
The missing 16-year-old girl was found alive in the back of a U-Haul truck in Cincinnati. Authorities said after interviewing her that they believe three adults may have lured the teen from her home under false pretenses.
Knox County officials say investigators found Nason in the back of the truck with the teen.
Cheek and Mason are due to appear in a Knox County courtroom Thursday to face charges of unlawful transaction with a minor and custodial interference.
Officials tell LEX 18 that Cheek and the teen are acquaintances and that Cheek lured her from her Corbin home, telling the teen that she was her legal guardian — even showing the girl phony paperwork to back the claim.
LEX 18 spoke with a representative of The Well, a Kentucky group that aims to help victims of human trafficking.
“It’s something that just because you don’t think it exists or you see it in your everyday life, you will now,” said Eileen Levy, executive director of The Well. “That is the whole point of the awareness piece, is to lift that up so people see, so when you walk down the street you’ll see that now. It’s something that you can close your eyes to forever.”
According to the Human Trafficking Research Initiative, 79 percent of victims are trafficked by a family member.