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Pinellas authorities: human trafficking ring busted

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says Pinellas County authorities have broken up a human trafficking ring where young women were forced into prostitution.

"It is modern day slavery and we have got to change the focus on how we think about prostitution and that's what this case is about," Bondi said. "These women are victims and if you're out there and you've been involved in this case, you know who you are. Please come forward. Law Enforcement is here to protect you and to help you."

Pinellas County authorities arrested 41-year-old Peter Kitt and 42-year-old Shawn Franklin after an investigation into illegal activity that began in June of 2012.

Clearwater Police Chief Anthony Holloway said the men would recruit young women at local strip clubs. They would then get them hooked on drugs, and beat them in order to force them into prostitution.

Holloway said the young women were also frequently sexually assaulted by the suspects. He added they are treating the women involved in the case as victims.

"We look at the whole picture now, instead of just focusing on, you're a prostitute," he said. "We look at, why are you prostituting? And that's again, when with all of the agencies in the area, we start training officers on these questions to ask these women when we take them into custody."

Police say the suspects face a variety of charges related to the investigation. They are held on $1 million bond each.

"Florida is a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking, and any individuals engaged in this abhorrent crime will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Bondi said.

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