Youth Pastor and Foster Parent Arrested For Trafficking Kids Using an App

Two men have been arrested in Hillsborough County for human trafficking of minors after the victim was found on a chat app by deputies from the county sheriff’s office.

Detectives began investigating after a mother discovered explicit content on her 16-year-old’s cell phone. They were able to determine that 36-year-old Moises Escoto, a youth pastor, had contacted the victim through the Sniffies app. On this app, he solicited the child for sexually explicit pictures and videos. Escoto, who was also engaging in sexual acts with the underage teen, was arrested on the same day that he was identified by detectives.

During the course of the investigation, another suspect was identified as register foster parent Joel Lutz, 38. He also found his victim on the Sniffies app and engaged in sexual acts with a child for money. Lutz was arrested by HCSO Human Trafficking detectives in Pinellas County, with the help of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Chad Chronister called the suspects’ behavior “absolutely disgusting,” especially since they were both in positions of mentorship and trust with children in the community. He urged parents to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s online activity, and assured the public that his office would not stop searching for predators who seek to harm children in the community.

Moises Escoto and Joel Lutz both face a litany of charges, including human trafficking for commercial sexual activity, lewd or lascivious battery, use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, traveling to meet a minor after using computer services or services to solicit certain illegal acts, and unlawful sexual activity with a minor.