FORREST COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - A Mississippi coast man is now behind bars as the Pine Belt Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force works to stop sex crimes from happening in the area.
Forrest County deputies are targeting criminals, protecting victims and deterring the unthinkable.
“I love trying to do my part to make our community a little bit better place than we found it,” Forrest County Deputy Nate Moseley said.
During an overnight shift Sunday, deputies spotted suspicious activity at a rest area on Interstate 59. Forrest County Chief Investigator Capt. Phillip Hendricks said that’s when a team of deputies began undercover surveillance.
“Some people were around the truck. He thought they were behaving strangely. He was suspicious it was possibly prostitution going on there,” Hendricks said.
The potential prostitution bust suddenly turned into a human trafficking investigation.
“The passenger was a developmentally disabled female and the driver was a three-time convicted sex offender, and he was actually pimping her out to people at the rest area,” Hendricks said.
Deputies arrested 60-year-old Louis Remont, of Bay St. Louis, and charged him with multiple crimes, including exploitation of a vulnerable adult, abuse of a vulnerable adult and prostitution-accepting money from a prostitute. The victim was brought to safety as members from the Center for Violence Prevention stepped in.
“It is unfortunate we are seeing more vulnerable adults as victims of human trafficking,” said Sandy Middleton, Executive Director of the Center for Violence Prevention.
With a mission to help victims, Middleton said these traumatic criminal acts are widespread and are happening often.
“I believe we are just now finding the tip of the iceberg when it comes to victims,” Middleton said.
This nonprofit organization is among the Pine Belt Anti-Human Trafficking Task force made up of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies working as a team to stop the threat of human trafficking in your community.
“Human trafficking is a problem in the state," Middleton said. "I think we are seeing increased cases in Forrest County and in the Hattiesburg area because law enforcement in the area is doing a great job identifying and prosecuting these cases.”
According to the Mississippi Sex Offender Registry, Remont has sex crime convictions dating back to 1999. Several of those convictions are from Terrebonne Parish, La.
As the investigation in Forrest County continues, Remont could face trafficking charges, though he has not been charged with trafficking at this time. That’s due to how the human trafficking statute is written.
With this case being the third of it’s kind in our state in recent weeks, a question is posed if state laws should be amended for further protection against vulnerable adults.
“The suspect in this case is a three-time convicted sex offender," Hendricks said. "He’s exactly the type of predator the task force is trying to arrest and get off the streets so that we can prevent him from victimizing other people.”
“It’s not automatically about, ‘let’s just put somebody in jail.' It’s about how can we affect somebody for a positive so that maybe their life changed,” Moseley said.
The Center for Violence Prevention operates the only long-term program for human trafficking victims in the State of Mississippi.
If you are suspicious of possible human trafficking or child exploitation, you can call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888.