Three house mates from Gorham, including a man who is on probation for robbery, will appear in court Wednesday on charges of arranging for a 19-year-old woman to engage in sex acts with strangers for money.
Klein Fernandes, 27, Tamika Dias, 34, and Jeremy Seeley, 31, were arrested on sex-trafficking charges Monday, said the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.
An investigation by several agencies showed that Dias posted an ad for the teenager on the website backpage.com, and that Fernandes and Seeley brought her to places in Cumberland, York and Androscoggin counties to engage in sex acts for money.
The young woman fled after learning that she might be sold to a pimp in Boston, said the District Attorney’s Office.
Dias and Fernandes, who is on probation, were charged with two counts of aggravated sex trafficking. Each one faces as much as 10 years in prison on each charge. Seeley was charged with two counts of sex trafficking and faces as much as a year in jail for each offense.
Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam wouldn’t say why Seeley faces lesser charges, citing a continuing investigation.
Fernandes was convicted of robbery in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in prison, with three years suspended and four years of probation.
The District Attorney’s Office said police learned about the sex-trafficking scheme late last week, with help from the Preble Street Teen Center in Portland, and searched 19 Woodland Road in Gorham, where all three defendants live.
The suspects were interviewed and admitted to participating in the scheme to receive money from exploiting the girl, said the District Attorney’s Office in a news release.
The investigation was a joint effort by the FBI and police in Gorham and South Portland, with help from the district attorney and state attorney general’s offices.
Daniella Cameron, manager of the Preble Street Anti-Trafficking Coalition, said in a prepared statement that the group is “seeing increasing numbers of people being trafficked” and is working with law enforcement agencies to protect the victims, most of them young women.
“Sex trafficking can happen anywhere there are vulnerable victims and people willing to exploit their poverty, desperation or hopelessness. Sex trafficking is not just a third-world problem, nor is it just a big-city problem. It is happening in our own Maine communities with alarming frequency,” Elam said in the news release.
“This presents a new challenge to law enforcement and requires all of us to open our minds to the possibility that those engaged in ‘prostitution’ may very well be victims more than criminals,” she said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: