Teen girls had no IDs and one-way first-class tickets. Why that alarmed airline employee.
Two girls may have been sold into sexual slavery had American Airlines’ employee Denice Miracle and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Todd Sanderson not stepped in. American Airlines
BY BENJY EGEL
Quick thinking from an American Airlines employee at Sacramento International Airport likely saved two teenage girls from lives in captivity.
American Airlines customer service agent Denice Miracle knew something was awry when two girls from the Vacavillle-Fairfield area, ages 17 and 15, came to her ticket counter on Aug. 31. The girls had no identification, were unaccompanied by adults and had two first-class tickets booked by another person with a fraudulent credit card, according to an airline news release.
“Between the two of them, they had a bunch of small bags. It seemed to me as if they were running away from home,” Miracle said in the release. “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.”
When Miracle refused to let the girls fly, they walked over to a nearby Starbucks table while one of them made a phone call. Meanwhile, Miracle called the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s Airport Bureau and reached Deputy Todd Sanderson, who later reported the girls had called a man named “Drey,” whom they had previously met on Instagram.
Drey had offered to fly the girls to New York for the weekend and pay them $2,000 to model and be in music videos. But one more piece of the puzzle seemed odd: Drey hadn’t bothered to buy the girls a return flight from New York to Sacramento. That was news to the teens, who had jumped at Drey’s offer without telling their parents.
“When I told them that they didn’t have a flight home, that’s when it kind of sunk in that maybe I was actually telling the truth,” Sanderson said. “In my opinion, what was going to happen was they were going to go back to New York and become victims of sex trafficking. They said they wouldn’t have let that happen, and I said they probably wouldn’t have had a choice.”
After the girls’ initial conversation from the Starbucks table, calls to Drey’s phone stopped going through. He deleted his Instagram page within minutes.
Drey likely used photos of another person, Sanderson said, and is unlikely to be prosecuted from outside the state. But thanks to Miracle’s awareness, the girls headed home from the airport with their parents that Thursday night.
“I’m very, very thankful Ms. Miracle with American Airlines was able to use her intuition and concern and actually say something,” Sanderson said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have been called and we wouldn’t have intervened with these girls.”