Madisonville Police Break Up Prostitution And Human Trafficking Ring

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A big bust in a ring involving both prostitution and human trafficking in Madisonville.

Investigators were near downtown looking into a case they say involved girls as young as 13 being forced into sex work, and they think as many as twelve people may have been involved.

News 3 as on scene for the exclusive story when some of the suspects were taken into custody.

Police believe the prostitution was happening at the home on East Collard Street for as long as five years.

They say those forced into prostitution here were at times as young as 13.

Two of those working in the home were underage.

Crime scene tape covered every corner of the house in the 700 block of East Collard Street in Madisonville.

Police arrested 34-year-old woman Jennifer Kelly.

She faces felony charges for promoting prostitution and even trafficking.

Madisonville Police Corporal Jonathan Zitzmann says it's a crime often under reported.

"What our intel has told us is this ringleader, this madam, she will recruit people you could say and exploit their vulnerabilities if they are impoverished," said Zitzmann.

Police have been receiving complaints at this house for more than nine months. Investigators believe the madam living inside would offer the prostitutes a place to stay and even force some of them into the business after getting them hooked on meth.

Two men in the home were arrested on drug charges after police say they found meth and marijuana in the home.

22-year-old Zachary Winningham and 58-year-old Henry Jones face drug-related charges.

A third man was arrested for an unrelated warrant. 31-year-old Jason McKinney had an outstanding warrant from out of the county.

"A lot of time it spreads by cellphone. There's some rumor that Backpage, which is a website of a sexually oriented Craigslist you could say, that is used to communicate and recruit some of the victims," said Zitzmann.

"It's surprising right here in small town Madisonville. You never know," was resident Otis Moten's reaction.

Otis Moten stopped by to visit his aunt and uncle next door had no idea what was allegedly taking place inside the neighbor's house.

"We know them, they was friendly. You know come out and speak or whatever but other than that that was about it," he said.

"Lot of people in the community look at prostitutes as suspects but we look to 'em as victims. Even though they don't look at themselves as victims, right now down the road they'll look back and they'll definitely realize they were a victim when this went on," said Corporal Zitzmann.

Jennifer Kelly has been booked into the Madison County Jail but her bond has not been set just yet.

Police tell us the home is owned by Kelly's grandmother who lived offsite and wasn't aware what was happening.

Investigators plan to evict everyone from the home.

Police say the prostitute victims are not only from Madisonville but also Brazos, Grimes, and Leon Counties and one might have even been a man.

Police executed the search warrant when the underage prostitutes were not at the home to protect their safety.