Human sex trafficking suspects arrested in Lehigh Acres
A half-dozen arrests and a man on the run after investigators find teenage sex slaves living in a dirty trailer. The mother of one of those suspects claims they’ve got it all wrong, that her son was trying to help those boys.
A trailer where victims were living is in St. Petersburgh, but deputies found at least three of the accused suspects living at home on Moore Avenue in Lehigh Acres.
The mother of suspect Mark Earl Dennis told WINK News Dennis moved back to Lehigh Acres with his husband to take care of his father.
Dennis’ mother also said the two men even brought a 15-year-old boy for a visit and said they planned to adopt him.
Authorities say the married couple was using the boy as a sex slave, but Dennis’ mother believes he is being wrongly accused.
“All I know is they’re trying to charge my son with something I’m positive he would not have done,” said Linda Dennis, whose son is accused of human trafficking. “He is gay. And there are some things he’s done that wasn’t up to mom. But, you know, when you get older, you do your own thing.”
Dennis’ husband Andrew Dennis is also accused in what authorities say the two men belonged to a group that repeatedly sexually abused two teenage boys for months.
In one of those cases, the attorney general’s office said Mark and Andrew picked up a 15-year-old-boy from Marion County who had run away from home and drove him back to their feces-covered trailer in Pinellas County.
Authorities say he then became a sex slave for the four men living in the trailer.
“I know a lot of gay people that have adopted other kids,” Linda said. “Trying to help a kid out, I would think. I don’t think it was anything sexual at all.”
But investigators say the suspects met the enslaved boys through the messaging app Discord for sex.
Suspect Michael Schwartz also has an address listed in Lehigh Acres, and suspect Curtis Gruwell was arrested in St. Pete early Tuesday morning.