Two women rescued from alleged human traffickers
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — A young woman who was allegedly the victim of human trafficking mouthed the words “help me” to a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer last week at the Shell station in Walcott Junction, resulting in the arrest of a California couple.
Lester Tucker, 38, of Oakland, Calif., and Janice Scott, 27, of Modesto, Calif., have both been charged with first degree human trafficking, and conspiracy to commit human trafficking “for the purpose of sexual servitude,” charging information stated.
Tucker is being held in the Carbon County Jail on $250,000 cash bond; bond has been set for Scott $100,000 cash. The two face up to 50 years in prison if convicted.
A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for the couple for Jan. 20.
Officers initially responded to a call reporting a domestic disturbance in a vehicle traveling on the interstate Thursday, according to an affidavit filed in Carbon County Circuit Court Monday.
Later on the reporting party texted dispatch, stating, “He is going to kill her.”
Officers pulled in behind the suspect’s vehicle while parked at gas pumps at a Shell station at Walcott Junction. A pair of WHP troopers who responded identified a man and woman in the driver’s and front passenger seat of the car as Tucker and Scott. There were two other women in vehicle as passengers.
One of the passengers, a young woman, identified only as NB, was standing near an open rear door of the suspect’s car when she mouthed the words “help me” to a WHP trooper, who gestured for her to approach him.
When she did, she positioned herself so that the open door of the trooper’s vehicle “was between her and the man and woman,” the affidavit stated.
The young woman told the trooper “in a very quiet voice that she and the other girl were being held and being taken to California,” according to the affidavit.
NB said that Tucker had threatened to kill them and accused him of raping her at a truck stop not long before, the affidavit stated
Police then approached the vehicle to speak with the other young woman in the car, sitting in the back seat. Identified as SP, the young woman told the officer the same thing — that she and the other girl were being held and taken to California, and that Tucker planned to force NB into prostitution.
“SP was crying and visibly shaking while (the officer) was speaking with her,” the affidavit stated.
The girls told police they had left Philadelphia with the couple, when Tucker and Scott promised to drive them to California and help them get jobs and a new start, the affidavit stated.
But after they got out of Pennsylvania, Tucker “turned mean and threatened them with physical harm if they tried to get away,” NB alleged in the affidavit.
SP told police that Scott had once held her arm while Tucker hit one of her fingers with a hammer.