Police: Sex trafficking victim breaks free from man keeping her in chains, locked trailer

A man is accused of beating and holding a woman he was selling for sex against her will in Arizona. (Source: Arizona's Family)
Published: Sep. 2, 2023 at 11:53 AM MST
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (KPHO/Gray News) - Authorities in Arizona say a woman who was chained and being held in a locked room was able to break free and run for help.

According to former FBI supervisory special agent Lance Leising, authorities were able to get a female sex trafficking victim help after she escaped a trailer where she was being held against her will and ran to a neighbor’s house.

Leising read court documents on Friday and said he was surprised by some of what he saw from the scene.

“This was getting to an extreme level, the chains and the restraints,” Leising said.

Police say Aaron Cortez had the unidentified woman chained in his travel trailer. He 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 that day, she escaped.

Detectives said through their investigation they learned that the female 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 the property of the defendant. That’s about as clear as it gets,” Leising said.

Court documents say Cortez had about 70 ads for prostitution online with pictures of him, some with the victim, and some depicting violent sex acts.

The victim told officers Cortez would take her on dates, would never let her go alone, and then collect the money himself afterward.

In addition to the contract, officers found rough drafts of tattoo ideas to brand the victim as the property of “King Ace.”

Former Phoenix Police Department human trafficking detective Heidi Chance said tattoos like that are commonplace in the trafficking industry.

Chance said often traffickers will use monikers with their victims that establish authority, like “King Ace,” but with an ulterior motive too.

“They use those nicknames or false information just in case a victim gets asked by law enforcement or interviewed,” Chance said. “The information they can give law enforcement is limited on purpose.”

Cortez was taken into police custody and is currently facing charges including aggravated assault, kidnapping and illegal enterprise.

The victim has since been able to get help from the Glendale Family Advocacy Center, authorities said.

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.