Human trafficking victim from Charlotte County rescued in Spring Hill

Writer: Rachel Murphy
Published: Updated:

A Charlotte County minor has been rescued from an accused human trafficking operation.

Deputies in Hernando County arrested a man they say paid an Uber driver to take the girl to Spring Hill.

“He stated to me multiple times that victims should be thankful for what he did to them,” a Florida law enforcement investigator said.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff, 56-year-old James Houllis made contact with the Charlotte County girl on a social media dating app. Investigators won’t name the app that was used.

Houllis forced a trafficking victim who was being held at his home to communicate with the girl from Charlotte County and build a relationship with her.

Before the girl got into the Uber, she signed a sex-based “Dominant and submissive agreement” but she hadn’t read it.

When she got to the Spring Hill home, north of Tampa, deputies said Houllis forced her into sex.

“Many of them don’t realize they’re even victims. So there is a manipulation that happens between the trafficker who is grooming the victim for the purposes of sex trafficking,” Linda Oberhaus said, the CEO of the Shelter for Abused Women & Children.

According to Oberhaus, parents should not let kids be alone with their devices. Children have to know that they can’t be sure who they’re communicating with online.

“This person was violent, you might even say sadistic, and things can turn on a dime. And when you’re young, you don’t think about those things,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said, of Hernando County.

Deputies say Houllis has lived in 53 places over the years and likely victimized other young girls.

The second victim being held at Houllis’ home was barely an adult. She was likely a juvenile when Houllis began grooming her. An investigation is taking place in Colorado where investigators said Houllis prostituted the young woman to a number of men.

According to the Hernando County Sheriff, they were able to track the Charlotte County juvenile to Houllis’ home using her cell phone. The two girls are now in a safe place receiving treatment.

“I’ve dealt with victims of human trafficking who are coming out of good homes, who are coming out of our communities here in Naples,” Oberhaus said, “the way that traffickers are able to get access to these young girls is they befriend them. They’re considered Romeo’s and they pretend to be this person’s boyfriend. These young girls actually think these traffickers are their boyfriends.”

Investigators ask any victims of human trafficking tied to Houllis to come forward.


Below are anti-human trafficking and mental health resources available to Southwest Floridians at the national and local levels:

  • The Shelter for Abused Women & Children:
  • 1 (888) 373-7888 National Human Trafficking Hotline SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week Languages: English, Spanish and 200 more languages Website:

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