Northeast Tarrant

15-year-old girl forced to work to pay off $10K debt in trafficking case, sheriff says

A 15-year-old from Guatemala has been rescued from human trafficking after Tarrant County authorities were tipped off they she was being forced to pay off a $10,000 debt.

The girl was forced to work all night at a local restaurant to pay off the debt she incurred for being brought to the United States, authorities said.

Authorities have arrested Cesar Augusto Valdez-Perez, 36, who faces charges of trafficking a child and two counts of fraudulent use/possession of identifying information.

Valdez-Perez, who also is from Guatemala, has an immigration hold.

An investigation began after the teen made an outcry to a friend who contacted her counselor and Southlake police. Officials with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office’s human trafficking unit assisted in the investigation.

Through the investigation, Valdez-Perez is accused of providing false documentation allowing the girl to obtain the job needed to work off the debt.

“We aren’t releasing the name of the restaurant at this point given that it is an ongoing investigation,” said David McClelland, a spokesman with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, in a Tuesday email.

Detectives also believe Valdez-Perez would drop off the teen at the restaurant in the evening and had the child work throughout the night.

“Exploitation of a child, and human trafficking are both unacceptable,” said Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn in a Tuesday news release. “As adults we all should do everything possible to protect children. We don’t know what long-term trauma has been done to this child by these actions.”

The suspect was arrested last month in Southlake.

His bail was set at $15,000 on the trafficking charge and $1,500 each on the fraudulent identification charges.

No information was released on the girl.

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