BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Two missing children have been recovered and two men have been arrested on child trafficking charges, reports the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations - Special Victims Unit (SVU).
Andre Johnson Jr., 22, of Baton Rouge and Rodney Lavalais Jr., 30, of New Orleans were both arrested as a result of two separate investigations.
The first investigation began on October 24 when SVU received information from the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office about a missing 16-year-old girl. Officials believed the teen had been communicating with an unidentified male from Baton Rouge. On October 25, investigators recovered the missing girl from a motel in New Orleans East. She was then placed in protective custody.
The reports states Johnson was arrested in the same motel room where the missing teen was found for an unrelated warrant from West Baton Rouge Parish for possession of stolen property and possession of a stolen firearm. Investigators determined Johnson lured the victim from her home and took her to New Orleans under false pretenses, where he allegedly abused her physically and forced her to perform lewd acts.
On October 27, Johnson was charged by SVU on an Orleans Parish arrest warrant on charges of trafficking of children for sexual purposes and was re-booked into the Orleans Parish Prison, where he is currently being held on the West Baton Rouge Parish warrant.
The second investigation began on September 29, when SVU recovered a 17-year-old female from a hotel room in New Orleans. The report says she had been missing for seven weeks. The investigation further revealed the juvenile was forced to engage in commercial sexual activity while she was missing. An arrest warrant was issued for Lavalais on October 31.
On November 2, Lavalais was arrested by the Kenner Police Department in an unrelated incident. He was booked into the Jefferson Parish Corrections Center for the outstanding warrant from Orleans Parish, as well as charges of felon in possession of a firearm and possession of marijuana. After processing, Lavalais will be transferred to Orleans Parish Prison, where he will be booked accordingly.
The investigation is ongoing and there are warrants pending for additional suspects.
"These two cases prove how vital it is for law enforcement not just in Louisiana, but across the country to remain focused on combating human trafficking. I am extremely proud of the work that the Special Victims Unit continues to perform. When it comes to human trafficking, it is important to remember that along with criminals arrested, there are also victims as well. The SVU will continue to work daily by rescuing and assisting those victims of human trafficking, as well as bringing to justice those who choose to break the law," said Colonel Mike Edmonson, LSP Superintendent.
If you have any information in this case or in other human trafficking cases, visit la-safe.org and click on the Suspicious Activity link to report it.