Two teenage girls who thought they had landed dream modelling jobs in New York were saved from a sex trafficker by a vigilant airline worker.
The Californian youths aged 15 and 17 narrowly avoided becoming victims of an Instagram predator thanks to American Airlines agent Denice Miracle.
Ms Miracle realised something was wrong when the girls approached her ticket counter at Sacramento Airport to check-in for a one-way first-class flight which had been paid for using a stolen credit card.
She told them they would not be able to fly and then alerted the County Sheriff’s Department.
“Between the two of them, they had a bunch of small bags. It seemed to me as if they were running away from home,” Denice said. “They kept looking at each other in a way that seemed fearful and anxious. I had a gut feeling that something just wasn’t right.
“It was a first-class ticket. It was very expensive. I told a supervisor, ‘I’m going to call the sheriff. It just doesn’t feel right to me.’”
The girls revealed that a man called “Drey” on Instagram had invited them to New York for the weekend to earn $2,000 (£1,425) by doing some modelling and performing in music videos.
They had not told their parents about the trip on 31 August last year and were shocked when they were told the tickets did not cover a return flight.
“When I told them that they didn’t have a flight home, that’s when it kind of sunk in that maybe I was actually telling the truth,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Sanderson.
“In my opinion, what was going to happen was they were going to go back to New York and become victims of sex trafficking. They said they wouldn’t have let that happen, and I said they probably wouldn’t have had a choice.”
Deputies tried to contact “Drey” but he quickly deleted all his social media profiles.
“I fully believe Denice probably prevented these girls from becoming victims,” Deputy Sanderson told Fox.
“They had told us they were talking to somebody on Instagram who was asking them to come back and take pictures, modelling pictures, and music videos.
“That’s typically the ruse that’s being used to get minors and others involved to do that.”
The girl’s parents were later told by the Sheriff’s Department that they were victims of attempted human trafficking.
“I’m proud of Denice and how she put her training into action to save these children,” said General Manager Aleka Turner in a statement from American Airlines. “She is a testament to the critical role our frontline team members play each and every day in the operation and the lives of each person they come in contact with. She’s a true professional with a huge heart.”