A small prostitution ring was uncovered this summer in Wichita after a teenage runaway called her mother in Montana for help after she was kicked out of a North Broadway motel for refusing to turn tricks.
The mother called Wichita police, who found the 17-year-old girl in an alley behind the Artichoke Sandwich Bar and then arrested several people a block away at the Sunflower Inn at 925 N. Broadway.
Testimony at a preliminary hearing on Wednesday showed that the girls involved in the ring posted their pictures and phone numbers on the backpage.com Internet website to find customers. Police said the girls gave the money they made to Daniel D. Tucker, 26, and Shawntaya Shaffer, 22, who are both facing aggravated human trafficking charges.
Shaffer waived her right to a preliminary hearing in August. Tucker was bound over for trial Wednesday on six counts of aggravated human trafficking.
The runaway, now 18, who testified by video from a Montana correctional facility, said she left home this summer with a friend who had ties to Wichita. Although her friend ended up working as a prostitute for Tucker, she said, she refused to do so herself.
After she spent several days in a motel room rented by Tucker, the girl said, he eventually kicked her out. The girl said she was pregnant and had nowhere else to stay when she made the call to her mother.
A 16-year-old girl who was arrested at the motel testified that she paid for the backpage.com ads using her cellphone and a prepaid debit card purchased at QuikTrip. Ads on the site cost $1. The girl said she was paid $500 for each job, though the price sometimes varied depending on the demands of the customers.
The girl said Tucker or Shaffer drove her to meet her “dates” in a black Mercedes. She said she gave the money to Shaffer or Tucker, though she sometimes secretly kept some for herself.
The girl said Tucker promised her and the other prostitutes working for him that he would take care of their financial needs.
“He said to just stay down with him and we’ll have everything that we need,” she said.
District Judge David Kaufman scheduled a Jan. 15 jury trial for Tucker, who is free on $100,000 bond.