WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Detectives with the Wilmington Police Department found at least four people who were being held at the Travel Lodge on Market Street against their will.
Two sisters, 15 and 16 years of age, were found Monday at the Travel Lodge on Market Street in Wilmington. Officials said they were recently moved there from Lumberton.
Police in Fargo, North Dakota notified the Wilmington Police Department in early August the sisters had been reported missing and could be in the area. An investigation lead detectives to the hotel.
Officers discovered the girls on Monday night, and it was in Juvenile Court the next morning officers said they realized the girls could be victims of human trafficking. That night they went back to the hotel and arrested Jeremy Dean Moots, 22, and Justin Angermeier, 28.
According to arrest warrants, the suspects allegedly held the girls against their will and forced them to sell magazines. Officers said they believe the girls originally ran away to work for the company under the impression that they would be making a lot of money. However, officers said when the girls started asking to go home early on the suspects reportedly would not let them.
"They had phones but their phones were not working, their phone chargers were broken so yeah they were cut off from communication," Sgt. Thomas Tilmon explained. "They made requests to contact their parents and for bus tickets home which were being denied."
The girls were reportedly first moved to Lumberton, North Carolina. When Lumberton Law Enforcement Officers started to catch on to them, the company moved the girls to Wilmington according to Wilmington Police.
The victims were mainly selling magazines in the Jacksonville area.
Arrest warrants show the victims were paid $20 a day for eight hours of work. The warrants also said the suspects initially agreed that the girls could leave any time they wanted to and would pay for their bus tickets.
When the victims asked to leave, the suspects refused and said they had to stay because of the contract they signed. Officials said the girls told the suspects several times they wanted to go home.
The sisters have been placed in protective custody and their parents have been notified.
Authorities said the company had rented out several rooms in the Travel Lodge. When police went back Tuesday to arrest the suspects, they also knocked on all the doors the company had rented out.
Officials said that's how they found two more victims, 18-year-old male cousins from Knoxville, Tennessee who said they were also being held against their will.
Officials said the cousins are on their way home.
According to Linda Rawley with the Wilmington Police Department, Jeremy Dean Moots, 22, and Justin Angermeier, 28, were each charged with human trafficking of a child, involuntary servitude, second degree kidnapping, and contributing to the delinquency and neglect of a minor.
Moots and Angermeier made their first court appearance in New Hanover County Wednesday afternoon via video conference.
Moots asked for a reduced bond saying, "I'm definitely not guilty in this." Moots then went on to say, "I'll show up in court to beat it."
Prosecutors argued that both suspects were managers, though they may not have been the highest-level employees involved, and were in control of the victims.
"I wasn't in charge at all," Moots said in court. "I just ordered a ticket because the company told me to."
Moots told the judge he worked for a company called Midwest Circulation.
The judge decided to keep both Moots and Angermeier's bonds at $350,000.
Police officials believe more charges could be forthcoming.