St. Pete prostitution scheme used underage girls, authorities say
The enforcer would stay with her in the hotel room until the john arrived.
After the john put his money on the table – anywhere from $100 to $350 Donell O. Jenkins would leave, and the man could do anything he wanted with the prostitute, authorities said Monday.
She was 15.
“There was nothing she wasn’t supposed to do,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference Monday.
The only thing she had to do was make sure the men wore condoms, the sheriff said.
“She was told that if she didn’t follow the rules she’s going to be beaten,” Gualtieri said.
Monday, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced it had stumbled across a prostitution ring that arranged sexual encounters with underage girls up and down St. Petersburg’s 34th Street corridor.
Three people from St. Petersburg were arrested Sunday: Jenkins, 21, Antron Smith, 30, and Stacey Jo Bumgarner, 28. Each faces one count of procuring a minor for prostitution, deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution and renting space to be used for prostitution.
Investigators learned of the operation after a deputy went to Room 132 at the Knights Inn on 54th Avenue about 12:30 a.m. Sunday to arrest Bumgarner on a minor warrant from Georgia. What he found instead was two girls, 15 and 16, and Jenkins.
Smith, the brains of the operation, and Bumgarner, the girls’ groomer, were in a nearby room, with two of Smith’s children, who are 6 and 9, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies arrested the three what they did with the 15-year-old, who is a habitual runaway, according to jail records. More charges are coming, Gualtieri said.
About a week ago, the 15-year-old met Jenkins, who introduced her to Smith and Bumgarner.
Bumgarner, a former prostitute, taught her how to service men and posted a profile of the girl on Backpage.com, an online site where people advertise for sex. The ad referred to the girl as “Candy” and provided a telephone number to call, the sheriff said.
The men called her directly after seeing the Backpage advertisement, the sheriff said.
“Candy” saw five men a day for about a week. One man came back three times in a couple of days, Gualtieri said.
Smith, Jenkins and Bumgarner kept 50 percent of the proceeds, the sheriff said. Jenkins returned to the room immediately after a john left to collect their cut between $40 and $100 every day, according to the sheriff and jail records.
The girl was first installed at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites at 2171 54th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg before she was moved Friday to the Knights Inn at 2595 54th Ave. N., Gualtieri said.
By the time the operation moved to the Knights Inn, the group had set up a profile for the 16-year-old girl, who was called “Diamond” on the site, and the Backpage.com advertisement was changed to say both girls were available for sex at the same time, the sheriff said.
That’s why both girls were in Room 132 when the deputy knocked.
Jenkins also faces charges of marijuana possession and contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child because deputies found a small amount of marijuana in the room and because the 15-year-old is a runaway, jail records say.
Smith is suspected of having five additional teenage girls working for him as prostitutes at various hotels along 34th Street, with different men keeping watch over them between tricks, though he hasn’t been charged with those offenses, the sheriff said.
In the case of the 15-year-old, Smith paid for the motel room she used and paid for the backpage.com advertisement, deputies said.
When the 15-year-old and 16-year-old were returned home, their families didn’t want anything to do with them, so the girls were placed in foster care, Gualtieri said. So were Smith’s 9-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter because authorities have not been able to find their biological mother.