MIAMI, FL – A federal grand jury has indicted two South Florida residents in connection with the alleged sex trafficking of a 16-year-old girl. According to allegations in a criminal complaint affidavit previously filed, the minor victim was a runaway from a group home, with no place to stay, when she met defendants Frantz Mersier, 30, of Hollywood, and Paula Barboza, 25, of Miami Gardens, on December 6, 2020. After offering the child a couch in his house on which to sleep, Mersier took the child in and had sex with her, says the affidavit. In the days that followed, according to court documents, Mersier and Barboza sexually trafficked the victim. It is alleged that Barboza took nude photographs of the 16-year-old girl and posted them as an on-line advertisement and that Mersier and Barboza sold sex with the victim to four different men in Broward County, Florida, for $100 each. On December 9, 2020, the victim was able to call a relative. Later that day, law enforcement rescued her.
Mersier and Barboza are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and one count of sex trafficking of a minor. Barboza also is charged with production of child pornography. They face life-time prison sentences, if convicted. Mersier and Barboza are being detained pending trial. Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, FBI’s Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
The investigation was a collaborative effort of the Broward County Human Trafficking Task Force, and it was led by task force members FBI Miami’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Squad, Hollywood Police Department, Miramar Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. The Task Force was established to combat all forms of human trafficking while also providing assistance and resources to address the specialized needs of trafficking victims. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brooke Latta.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
To report suspected human trafficking or to obtain resources for victims, please call 1-888-373-7888; text “BeFree” (233733), or live chat at HumanTraffickingHotline.org. The toll-free phone, SMS text lines, and online chat function are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Help is available in English, Spanish, Creole, or in more than 200 additional languages. The National Hotline is not managed by law enforcement, immigration or an investigative agency. Correspondence with the National Hotline is confidential and you may request assistance or report a tip anonymously.
To learn more about the National Resource Hotline visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.
An indictment and criminal complaint are charging documents containing allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.