Man beat, chained up sex trafficking victim before she escaped, Glendale police say

A man beat, chained up and held a woman he was selling for sex against her will in Glendale before she escaped to a neighbor's house, police say.
Published: Sep. 1, 2023 at 7:59 PM MST
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GLENDALE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A terrifying situation in Glendale on Friday after a woman who was chained and restrained banged on a neighbor’s door for help. Police discovered she was a sex trafficking victim. “This was getting to an extreme level, the chains and the restraints,” said former FBI supervisory special agent Lance Leising.

Leising read the court documents Friday and was surprised by some of what he saw. According to police, Aaron Cortez had chained up a woman in his travel trailer, whipped her with a charging cord and chains, then left her alone locked inside.

Court documents showed once she felt he was gone long enough, she escaped, and detectives later learned she was a sex trafficking victim, allegedly being pimped out by Cortez, who went by “King Ace.”

That name was something written on her hand. But they also learned his possession went further. “You have some things that go well over the top. You have a contract that was written and signed by the victim saying that she’s property of the defendant. That’s about as clear as it gets,” said Leising.

The documents say Cortez had about 70 ads for prostitution online with pictures of him, some with the victim, too, depicting violent sex acts. The victim told officers Cortez would take her to dates, would never let her go alone, then collect the money himself afterward. In addition to the contract, officers found rough drafts of tattoo ideas to brand the victim as property of King Ace.

Former Phoenix Police Department human trafficking detective Heidi Chance said tattoos like that are commonplace in the trafficking industry, and sometimes, after being groomed, some victims actually want them. “It’s almost like a thing that some exploited people see as a part of a family, part of their group. Almost a wanted thing,” said Chance.

Chance said often traffickers will use monikers with their victims that establish authority, like King Ace, but with an ulterior motive, too. “So they use those nicknames or false information to keep, just in case a victim gets asked by law enforcement or interviewed, the information they can give law enforcement is limited on purpose,” said Chance.

Cortez was arrested after police were surveilling him and is now facing charges including aggravated assault, kidnapping and illegal enterprise.

The victim was able to get help at the Glendale Family Advocacy Center. Leising said it’s important to remind the public of the signs to look for. If you see somebody who is dismissive and not making eye contact, being treated like property by someone they’re with, or with poor hygiene, they could be victims of human trafficking and you should call the police.

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