Crime

Florida Keys Children's Shelter staffer accused of transporting two girls who say they were prostituted out

A staff member at the Florida Keys Children's Shelter in Tavernier was arrested on two felonies Wednesday, accused of taking two female shelter clients to Cutler Ridge in Miami-Dade County, where they say they were used for prostitution.

"Investigations into what the girls became involved in after Ricky Atkins took them to the motel are ongoing," said Becky Herrin, spokeswoman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

Atkins, 28, is charged with two counts of interference with custody, a third-degree felony. He was listed in a police report as a shelter "mentor" and has been fired.

Herrin said one of the girls -- ages 15 and 16 -- called the Sheriff's Office on Sept. 1 saying she was driven to Miami-Dade on Aug. 15 with the other girl. Both had run away from the shelter, received a ride to Miami and "were used for prostitution there; she said they witnessed other crimes taking place as well," Herrin said.

The girls were found in Sarasota County by the North Port Police Department on Aug. 24 and were returned to the Florida Keys Children's Shelter. The lead agency in the investigation is the Miami-Dade County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Atkins apparently has convictions in Miami-Dade for trespassing and disorderly conduct.



In a prepared statement, Matthew Francis, with the Vernis & Bowling law firm that represents the shelter, said: "While we do not yet have all the details, given the nature of our work at the shelter, we of course take this matter very seriously. We are working with the Sheriff's Office and closely following its investigation. We are also conducting an internal investigation into this matter."

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