Local man charged in FBI sex trafficking sting awaits jury trial

Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 10:33 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - It’s the last day of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, but the issue is not going away locally, partly because of the case of a Woodford County father.

Nationally, the FBI started 2023 working 1,675 active cases of human trafficking, most for sex.

In U.S. District Court in Peoria, Dana Curtin, 48, of Metamora is accused of trying to buy sex with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl.

Last March, the FBI posted an ad on the website “skipthegames.com” to identify people attempting to exploit minors online. Federal court documents say the ad said, “If you’re looking for some taboo no limits fun, here’s your girl.”

Court documents claim Curtin and an undercover FBI agent started texting. Curtin allegedly wrote he was willing to pay $150 for 30 minutes with a 12-year-old girl and arranged a meeting.

They agreed to meet up, two months later, after several other dates had been cancelled. On May 19, at Starbucks in Peoria Heights, Curtin was arrested.

Court documents further claim Curtin said he went there to see if she was real, then go and tell someone. Officials found $240 in his wallet, $150 was separated and two condoms in his car.

While this case continues, one Peoria resource center sees on average two victims of sex trafficking per month.

“Our youngest client was 8 and she was trafficked by her aunt to her aunt’s boyfriend and his friends. We’ve had a 12-year-old who was trafficked by her mother to the landlord for reduced rent and access to alcohol and cigarettes,” said CEO of Center for Prevention of Abuse, Carol Merna.

The FBI currently has more than 1,600 pending human trafficking cases across the country.

“Human trafficking exists. As long as there’s the internet, it’s going to exist everywhere. It’s in the rural settings, it’s certainly in the urban areas,” said Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Ray Hart of Springfield FBI.

Agent Hart says the sex trade accounts for 90% of their human trafficking cases, with predators mainly online. He says parents need to be aware.

“Leaving a child isolated these days on the internet is the recipe for unfortunately a disaster,” said Hart, “Traffickers will certainly target those who have psychological and emotional vulnerabilities.”

Merna says one in four victims of human trafficking are children.

“People don’t realize that they see human trafficking every day,” said Merna.

Hart says anyone can be a victim or a predator, but more women are victims than men.

“If you see someone online whose advertising sex services, there’s a good chance that that person that’s being advertised is probably a victim of human trafficking,” said Hart.

Curtin’s jury trial is scheduled for March 27 in Peoria.