Police: Alleged human traffickers caught at Jacksonville inn

POSTED: 4:10 PM Jul 22 2013   UPDATED: 9:55 AM Jul 23 2013
JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY -

Jacksonville Police have arrested two suspects for allegedly holding a woman as a prostitute.

Robin Applewhite, 36, and Samantha Rivard, 29, both of Hope Mills, were arrested on Sunday, investigators said.

According to police, they got a call at about 3:28 p.m. Sunday of possible prostitution at the Baymont Inn, at 474 Western Boulevard in Jacksonville. When officers arrived, they found marijuana, heroin and cocaine in a room, investigators said. Officers then found a woman who said she was being held in sexual servitude, and was forced to travel from Cumberland County to Jacksonville, police added.

The victim is receiving help through the Jacksonville Police Department Victims' Advocacy Program. Her alleged captors, Applewhite and Rivard, were placed in the Onslow County Jail under $800,000 and $700,000 bonds respectively.

Applewhite faces the following charges:

  1. First-degree kidnapping, human trafficking (adult)
  2. Felony conspiracy
  3. Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/distribute cocaine
  4. Manufacture cocaine
  5. Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/distribute heroin (two counts)
  6. Manufacture schedule ll controlled substance
  7. Manufacture schedule l controlled substance
  8. Deliver schedule ll controlled substance
  9. Deliver schedule l controlled substance

Rivard has been charged with the following:

  1. Human trafficking (adult)
  2. Felony conspiracy
  3. Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/distribute cocaine
  4. Manufacture cocaine
  5. Possession with intent to manufacture/sell/distribute heroin
  6. Manufacture schedule l controlled substance
  7. Possession of marijuana

Heather French is the director of intervention and prayer with the Pearl Ministry in New Bern. She is part of an advocacy group against human trafficking.

"It’s shocking to think that this happened at a hotel, not necessarily in a bad part of town, on Western Boulevard right in the middle of Jacksonville," French said.

French explained that North Carolina is among the top 10 states in the U.S. for human trafficking.  She said it's an industry that generates $32 billion a year.

"Modern day slavery is real, and it is happening right here in North Carolina, right in our backyards," French said.

Jason Bettis, with the Jacksonville Police Department, said human trafficking is becoming more technologically advanced with the internet.

"We have to change when they change. So if they change their methods, we have to change our methods to catch them. So it's an ever ongoing battle with that," Bettis said.