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17-year-old girl trafficked into U.S. from Mexico rescued after texting 911 and describing landmarks

Survivor on how human trafficking happens
Human trafficking survivor and forensic expert on how trafficking happens 06:02

A 17-year-old girl has been rescued and a man arrested after the girl was allegedly trafficked into the United States from Mexico, authorities in Southern California said Thursday. The girl was able to text authorities asking for help and describe enough landmarks for police to find her. 

The Ventura County Sheriff's Communication Center in California received a text message at around 3 a.m. on Thursday, April 9 that included pleas for help, the sheriff's department said in a news release. A dispatcher at the center began communicating with the texter, who was sending messages in Spanish. The texter had no idea where she was but described multiple landmarks and "other identifiable information," and the dispatcher passed this information along to deputies at the Ojai Sheriff's Sub-Station.

Those deputies launched a search in the Casita Springs area, and after just 20 minutes, the texter was found. 

The texter was identified as a 17-year-old girl, but her name and hometown have not been released publicly. 

Officials said the investigation found that the girl was trafficked into California about two months ago. She was evaluated and transferred to Ventura County Child Family Services until she can be reunited with her family. Authorities did not say if the girl had family in the U.S. or when the reunion was expected to happen. 

The girl identified Gerardo Cruz of Veracruz, Mexico as a suspect in the case. Cruz, 31, was "quickly located and arrested by deputies," officials said. 

Cruz has been charged with human trafficking, forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, luring, and sexual penetration with force. He pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to online records reviewed by CBS News. 

Cruz remains in the Todd Road Jail on a $500,000 bail, according to online records. His next court date is set for May 22. 

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