Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking

elan seagraves
 Elan Seagraves is being held in a jail in Sacramento County, Calif. Credit Sacramento Country Sheriffs Office

The call came in shortly before 3 a.m. on Christmas Day: A frightened 17-year-old girl, hiding in the backyard of a suburban California home, told the operator that she had been trafficked into prostitution by a man waiting for her in a nearby car.

Police officers arrived and soon found the man sitting in a vehicle with a second girl, also 17, who they determined had also been trafficked, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said.

The man, Elan Seagraves, was a soccer coach for the local school district, and he also worked as a driver for the ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft. He was arrested and charged with two felonies related to the trafficking and pimping of minors, said Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

“I’m a Soccer Coach, Bartender, and a Dad,” Mr. Seagraves wrote on Facebook, where his profile picture on Wednesday showed a group of teenage girls in soccer uniforms. He identified himself on Facebook as a coach at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento as well as a coach and trainer at NorCal Elite Soccer Trainers, where employees did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Alex Barrios, a spokesman for the Sacramento City Unified School District, said Mr. Seagraves had been an intermittent employee of the district and was fired on Thursday.

He had worked since the fall as the coach of the varsity boys’ soccer team, comprising mainly juniors and seniors, at Kennedy High School and was not a classroom teacher, Mr. Barrios said. Mr. Seagraves had also coached the boys’ team from March to May 2016 and from January to March 2017.

“We have let him go,” Mr. Barrios said. “After this announcement, we made the decision that he was not going to be able to fulfill his duties as a soccer coach.”

Mr. Seagraves had previously worked for the district as a coach for the girls’ junior varsity team, comprising mainly freshmen and sophomores, at the district’s West Campus High School between September and October 2013 and again from February to May 2014, Mr. Barrios said. He did not know if either of the teenage victims in the case was a student in the school district.

The school district has high levels of poverty and is in an area where trafficking has become a more high-profile issue in recent years, Mr. Barrios said.

“We have invested so much into preventing instances of human trafficking,” he said. “This is a very sensitive issue in Sacramento and for our district. We don’t even know if these are our students, but as a partner in the region we have tried to do a lot.”

The district was the only in the country to receive a $400,000 three-year grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice in 2016 to mentor child victims of sex trafficking and prostitution, Mr. Barrios said.

It hired 10 college-age mentors in 2017 to work with young people and has also trained over 500 district staff in issues related to trafficking and child sex exploitation.

A case manager hired in 2012 has worked with more than 100 young people since 2016, he said.

Mr. Barrios said the district had no information about the victims. “We just hope they’re O.K.,” he said.

Lyft and Uber both said Tuesday that Mr. Seagraves’s accounts had been terminated, a move that effectively bars him from driving for them. Andrew Hasbun, a spokesman for Uber, said Mr. Seagraves had passed a background check in accordance with California law and had been driving for the company for two years.

“These allegations are incredibly disturbing,” said Scott Coriell, a spokesman for Lyft. “Our concern is with the victims, and we stand ready to assist law enforcement in any way that we can.”

Mr. Seagraves is being held at the Sacramento County Main Jail and his bail has been set at $2 million, the police said. The district attorney’s office said his next hearing is on Thursday. It was not known if Mr. Seagraves had a lawyer.

Article from: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/us/soccer-coach-human-trafficking.html