Airline employee prevents teen girls from flying to meet suspected human trafficker

Two teen girls have an American Airlines customer service agent to thank for protecting them from a seriously scary scenario in the summer of 2017.

According to a statement from American Airlines, Sacramento, Calif.-based airline employee Denice Miracle grew suspicious as she began checking in the two unnamed girls — aged 15 and 17 — for a flight to New York City. Though the girls had first-class tickets, neither had identification, and the credit card that had been used to book the tickets was in another person’s name — and flagged as fraudulent. The fact that the teens were traveling with one-way tickets without an adult also rang alarm bells for Miracle.

Drawing on the airline’s Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct training to recognize signs of human trafficking, Miracle refused to check the teens in. They moved to a nearby table to make a phone call, and Miracle reported what was going on to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Airport Bureau, which sent four deputies to investigate.

“Between the two of them they had a bunch of small bags,” Miracle explained. “It seemed to me as if they were running away from home. They kept looking at each other in a way that seemed fearful and anxious. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right.”

Her gut feeling was accurate. The girls told the deputies they were flying to New York to meet a man named Drey who had contacted them through Instagram. Drey paid for the flights without telling the girls they were one-way flights. He had offered them $2,000 to model and do music video work.

Though the teens were able to reach Drey by phone when Miracle first declined to check them in, subsequent attempts to contact him failed. His social media profiles disappeared.

The story has all the hallmarks of a human trafficking plot — albeit one with a happy ending, as the girls safely returned home to their shocked parents.

Miracle “probably really was their miracle that day, whether they want to believe it or not,” Deputy Todd Sanderson told reporters.

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