Two people arrested for forcing child into prostitution - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Two people arrested for forcing child into prostitution

Christopher Pendowski (L) Cindy Hazlett (R) (Photo Source: Biloxi Police Department) Christopher Pendowski (L) Cindy Hazlett (R) (Photo Source: Biloxi Police Department)

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Two people are in jail accused of forcing a child into a life of prostitution. Biloxi Police charged Christopher Pendowski, 37, of Ocean Springs and Cindy Hazlett, 30, of Biloxi with human trafficking. Officers are not releasing much information at this time to protect the child's identity and avoid compromising the investigation. Police said they need the public's help to fight this kind of crime.

Pendowski and Hazlett are in the Harrison County jail under a $200,000 bond. Police allege the pair profited from a child prostitute.

"They are accused of subjecting a child to commercial sexual activity," said Sgt. Aldon Helmert. "The state law defines that as any act that's sexual that someone gains financially or otherwise."

Biloxi officers said this is the second human trafficking case the department has pursued since Mississippi passed laws in 2006. That statute gave the state the same ability to prosecute human trafficking as the federal government.

"It allowed us the opportunity to charge someone for putting a child in a dangerous situation," Helmert said. "Not just exposing that child to the commercial sexual activity but any of the dangers associated with that type of activity."

Police are not releasing the age and gender of the child or relationship between the child and Pendowski and Hazlett. Officers said the more questions they ask, the more people they find who say they saw red flags.

"As a result of our investigation, we had learned that there had possibly been times in which people may have had indicators or some activity. If it had been alerted to law enforcement, it may have prevented this from continuing," said Helmert. "There's a potential for this kind of crime. We are going to do everything we can to investigate any reports that we receive. We need the general public to be aware that this activity has occurred in our area, and there is a potential that it would reoccur in our area."

Police said the investigation is ongoing, and they're asking anyone with information about this case or possible other victims to call Biloxi police at 228-392-0641 or Crimestoppers at 877-787-5898, or send an email to Sgt. Aldon Helmert.

Anyone convicted under Mississippi's human trafficking law faces up to 30 years in prison.

Officials said the human trafficking arrests came after a joint investigation of the Biloxi Police Department, the Harrison County Sheriff's Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the Jackson County Narcotics Task Force, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

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