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Court records: 9 people may be connected to sex trafficking crimes at a child rehab center

On March 10, a federal judge talked with state investigators about their work and how they handled allegations against The Refuge for DMST.

AUSTIN, Texas — New information obtained by the KVUE Defenders shows how state investigators waited more than a month to report possible sex trafficking inside a residential child care facility.

The Refuge for DMST rehabs underage girls who are survivors of sex trafficking.

In a letter to court monitors, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported sexual abuse allegedly happened at the shelter. The accusations include sexual abuse, neglectful supervision, physical abuse, exploitation for licensing and medical neglect.

The court documents show a current Refuge employee reported to the State that a former employee sold nude photos of two sex trafficking survivors and used the money to buy illegal drugs and alcohol and gave them to those girls at the shelter.

A letter sent from Texas DPS to Gov. Greg Abbott said no arrest has been made with that former employee. The matter remains under investigation by local authorities.

RELATED: No sexual abuse or human trafficking | Texas Rangers clear Bastrop child center from allegations

The letter also said four employees remain under investigation by Bastrop officials amid allegations they helped girls escape the shelter.

The KVUE Defenders found the State took eight claims from Jan. 24 through the beginning of March.

“It looks like there are nine alleged perpetrators. I know I mentioned on the call with the monitoring team that there were some unknown. I believe they’ve been identified at this point,” Tara Olah, DFPS, told the court.

Olah said seven children may have been trafficked. But the DPS letter to Gov. Abbott said "there is no evidence that any of the residents at The Refuge have ever been sexually abused or trafficked while at the shelter."

In a press conference on Mar. 11, The Refuge leaders said one former employee was responsible for trafficking two children. That is the employee accused of selling nude photos of two girls and using the money to buy drugs and alcohol for those girls.

“I can tell you that by noon tomorrow what I want are the name, Social Security number and date of birth for each of these alleged perpetrators. We’re going to do our own through the Marshal Service like we did with the staff for the monitors. I want to do a criminal history check,” U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack said.

“The State needs to give the monitors the names of all of those children, the seven alleged trafficked children, their names, where they are and exactly what – you know, I’m not really interested in your procedural forensic interviews. I’m interested in getting these children medically examined and getting mental health care,” Jack said.

Court records claim some of the traffickers were related “by blood, marriage or cohabitating.”

It may not have been caught because, “They don’t share common last names.”

This is part of a bigger case holding our State child care authorities accountable for how they operate.

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