Feds: Man recruited foster care girls for prostitution

Jacksonville man preparing to plead to sex trafficking

Published On: Jul 06 2012 05:16:15 PM EDT   Updated On: Jul 06 2012 10:07:25 PM EDT

A man accused is of trafficking young girls in the state's foster-care program for sex.

Federal prosecutors say Gregory Hodge, of Jacksonville, advertised teenage girls on a website, then profited from them having sex for money.

In a signed plea agreement, Gregory Hodge admitted recruiting a 16-year-old victim walking near the Children's Home Society, a group home for children.

The girl, identified only by the initials A.B., testified that the first time she had sex with a client, she told Hodge, "I thought it was supposed to be a massage," to which he replied, "Well, do whatever you have to do for the money."

Detectives interviewed a resident of The Strand, a luxury apartment tower on the Southbank, who confirmed he paid the girl $80 or more for her services.

When the man was asked if he had sex with her, he told investigators: "It's like Bill Clinton, it depends on your definition of sex."

According to court records, the girl often met customers at Studio 6, repeatedly renting rooms on the first and second floor. Investigators say sometimes she even made house calls.

COURT DOCUMENT:  Hodge plea agreement details sex scheme

The Department of Children and Families, which oversees the state's foster program, recognizes that group homes across the state are falling prey to sex trafficking.

"Certainly we take this very seriously, and we're working with the agencies to make sure that they understand about what services are needed and also to be on the outlook to talk with these children, and have the best possible communications," said DCF spokesman John Harrell.

Harrell says that while the agency is trying to provide more supervision, they can't control the teenagers' behavior.

"We do try to encourage them to try to put their best interests at heart, but we can't just put them on lockdown," Harrell said. "These are not teenagers who are in the juvenile justice system."

DCF said it's not unusual for victims already recruited to lure others in the group home into prostitution. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office confirms that another girl in Hodge's scheme was 14 years old.

Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson believes this type of thing is not as rare as people think.

"We never expect to hear of this sort of thing here in Jacksonville, but it's common," said Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson. "It's a common thing, almost as common as any other crime."

Hodge is undergoing psychological evaluation while awaiting the finalization of his plea agreement on federal charges.  He faces from 10 years to life in prison.