(Memphis) A Millington man accused of recruiting high school girls for prostitution, Michael Lilley, will face a federal judge Wednesday on sex trafficking charges, but according to the complaint, it was a 17-year-old boy doing the recruiting for Lilley.
Some people were shocked to learn the teenager,a Millington High School student, was targeting his classmates and getting them into prostitution.
But sex-trafficking experts say this is a common way for pimps to pick up girls.
Authorities say Lilley, a 49-year-old man, was selling girls as young as 15 years old for sex in his back house. They say he lured them there using the friendly face of the 17-year-old boy.
“Because I can trust somebody who is just like me, rather than someone who is not like me,” said Kim Benson, who runs A Bridge of Hope. “So I am not more likely to trust some strange grown man as I would be one of my own friends.”
“He seems safe, absolutely,” said Rachel Sumner, the director of Restore Corps, that helps women rescued from the sex trade.
Sex-trafficking experts Sumner and Benson say the boy is known in the pimping business as a “recruiter.”
“Recruiting is the largest thing that is happening besides the exploitation itself,” said Benson.
“It’s been happening in the Memphis area for quite some time,” said Sumner.
In Lilley’s criminal complaint, the 17-year-old boy admitted targeting girls at Millington Central and Brighton High School using his “charm” to get the girls to work.
“You tell them they don’t have to work at McDonald’s. You don’t have to work fast food. You don’t have to struggle, I can help you with all these things,” said Benson.
Benson says the most vulnerable are young teens who have troubled homes or who’ve already been sexually abused in the past. She says parents need to act when they see the signs.
“If they’re pulling away from things that were important to them. If their hair changes. If their circle of friends changes. These are all factors where we can step in. When you start seeing that, there’s a reason. That is a silent cry for help.”
Benson wants people to remember this number: 888-373-7888.
It’s the National Human Sex Trafficking Hotline.
If you want to report a recruiter or pimp or if you are a girl or woman who needs help, that’s the number you can call anywhere nationwide.