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Former sex trafficking victim speaks about dark side of the Holy City

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Tricked, sold and then eventually saved.

Lindsey Hass bravely tells her story of being part of a sex trafficking operation along the East Coast for one year, a reality that's becoming far to common.

Charleston County is one of the top five counties in the state for human trafficking according to the South Carolina Attorney General's Office.

Her story mirrors what happens to many of those victims, where the leader of the ring started out as a friend.

Hass was living in Maryland and was almost 21 years old when she went on a date with a man she considered a friend.

Hass says, "A girl called him and said she had an emergency, he had to leave and asked me to ride with him to take her to a safe place,” she said.

Lindsey says he took her to hotel and removed her phone.

Using violence, force and manipulation, he forced her into selling sex in cities along the East Coast.

"When I first got with him, he threatened one of the girls with a cinder block," says Hass.

They traveled up and down from hotel to hotel and stayed in Charleston because of the money that could be made in the area.

"I could make upwards of a $1,000 a night, it was non-stop it was 24 hours a day here and all surrounding counties like Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, everywhere,” Hass said.

Hass said she tried to coordinate an escape with a friend on the outside when she was in New Jersey, but the plan didn’t work out.

"The pimp went through my phone and saw the message and he had the other girls jump me when I tried to leave, while he held me down,” she said.

It was only a matter of time before Hass was arrested for prostitution. She was arrested in North Charleston in 2012 and still, she fell under her pimp’s control.

“They manipulate you into thinking you need to protect the pimp,” she said. “I would be willing to take his charges instead,” says Hass.

However, she began speaking with a North Charleston police officer who specialized in human trafficking operations and found resources such as the non-profit Doors to Freedom, which provides a safe place for survivors of sex trafficking.

Hass says when she finally opened up to the detective, she was able to turn her life around.

But she still has flashbacks.

"It brings back memories I don't like,” she said.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said he hears about these victims all too often.

"A North Charleston police officer made a startling statement to me. He said, ‘I can not stop finding human trafficking cases,’” Wilson said.

Wilson is currently investigating 72 human trafficking cases statewide.

Today, Hass’ life is on a new path.

She’s a mom, a restaurant manager and she tells her story to anyone who will listen.

Hass, says "It's real, it's here right in front of your face. It's not just in the movies. These girls are in danger.”

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