• Police: Man locked teen in van, forced her into prostitution

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Orange County authorities said a teenage runaway was forced into a life of sex with strangers.

    Rafael Rosario, of Orlando, is behind bars accused of locking the underage girl inside his van where he would profit off her prostitution.

    According to investigators, it happened behind J & J Sports Bar at 3800 Goldenrod Road.

    Julio Mejia, the bar's owner, told Channel 9's Anthony DiLorenzo that he had no clue his property was being used for human trafficking.

    Mejia took DiLorenzo behind his bar to show him the van where authorities say the girl was locked up.

    Mejia said he let Rosario, 48, live in the broken down van on his property. But he said he had no idea what was happening inside.

    "(Rosario) started making money and asked him how he was making money when he was a bum sleeping back here," said Mejia's nephew, Christian Montalbo who translated for his Spanish-speaking uncle.

    According to investigators, Rosario was pocketing money from a 17-year-old he forced into sex slavery.

    The girl told authorities that Rosario befriended her after she ran away from home.

    She told investigators she was kept inside the van for at least a week.

    Rosario would allegedly solicit bar patrons, on some nights as many as seven men, to have sex in the van with the girl.

    Last month, detectives spotted the vehicle and arrested Rosario.

    Investigators said the girl told them when they found the van they'd know it because there would be pairs of women's underwear hanging inside.

    Investigators said the suspect denied everything.

    Mejia said had he known how horrifically the victim was being treated, he would have turned Rosario in.

    "(Mejia is) not going to put his business at risk. He didn't know about that," said Montalbo.

    On Tuesday afternoon the Orange County Building Department said they shut down J & J Sports Bar.

    According to a representative from the county, an inspector visited the bar and learned that Mejia was operating the business without a certificate of occupancy. The inspector also found blocked exits and open cuts in the floors to run additional plumbing.

    The owner was given a notice to cease operations until they obtain the proper certificates to operate.

    Tuesday night, the bar was open for business and the owner said they had not received any notification.

    The Department of Children and Families, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security are investigating the case.

    Authorities said they are looking for the public's assistance for any additional victims and anyone else who may have information to call them at 1-866-347-2423 or go to the website: ice.gov/tips.

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