Search Is On for Missing Columbus Teen Human Trafficking Victim and Possible Suspect, Police Say

Split photo, to the left, the face of a man identified as Moises Perez Jimenez. To the right, the face of Daniela Juneth Cruz-Rios.
From left: Moises Perez Jimenez is wanted for questioning related to the investigation; Teen human trafficking victim Daniela Juneth Cruz-Rios.Facebook/Columbus Division of Police

Columbus Police and Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force are requesting help in search for 17-year-old Daniela Juneth Cruz-Rios.

The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is asking the public for help in finding a teen human trafficking victim who has gone missing in central Ohio.

The COHTTF is searching for 17-year-old Daniela Juneth Cruz-Rios, an undocumented, unaccompanied minor who only speaks Spanish. Cruz-Rios is the victim of human smuggling and trafficking, the Columbus Division of Police wrote on Facebook Tuesday. 

Authorities suspect that traffickers are manipulating and threatening Cruz-Rios because her mother and infant child are in Mexico.

Columbus Police and COHTTF are now in search for 42-year-old Moises Perez Jimenez, who is wanted for questioning related to the investigation, the Columbus Division of Police wrote in a post three hours later.

Jimenez currently has a felony warrant for Disseminating Matter Harmful to a Juvenile, according to police.

Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, told NBC 4 that a security guard at a synagogue alerted Columbus police that something may not be right after seeing  Cruz-Rios and Jimenez.

Following an investigation, detectives came to the conclusion that the girl had been trafficked in central Ohio for at least a year and had been brought into the country illegally, according to NBC 4.

The outlet reported that Cruz-Rios was rescued in late June and Franklin County Children's Services later placed her with a Spanish-speaking foster family.

Hess told NBC 4 that the girl went missing shortly after then, leading police to begin working with Homeland Security, children’s services, and U.S. Marshals to recover her and the man wanted for questioning.

What makes this case more difficult for investigators is that the girl does not have what law enforcement often uses to start a search, Hess told NBC 4.

“Unfortunately, one of the most challenging aspects of a child who is undocumented and unaccompanied is that we don’t have cell phones for them,” Hess told the outlet. 

“Most of them don’t have a cell phone, most of them don’t have social media, they don’t speak English, so our normal means of pinging cell phones or tracking their social media, we can’t use.”

Hess told NBC 4 that anyone who sees Cruz-Rios or Jimenez should not approach them, but instead contact police. Additionally, anyone with information about the teen or Jimenez’s whereabouts is asked to call the Columbus Division of Police at 614-645-4545 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-8477.

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