Tampa Deputies Rescue Human Trafficking Victim, Arrest Perpetrator
In a recent harrowing incident in Tampa, Florida, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) came to the rescue of a human trafficking victim and put a convicted felon behind bars. This case shines a light on the critical role of law enforcement in combating the heinous crime of human trafficking.
It all began when a woman reached out to the authorities for help. She called the deputies, reporting that her pimp was attempting to forcefully enter her home on September 14. Frightened and desperate, the distressed woman locked herself in the bathroom.
Law enforcement swiftly responded to the call, and upon arrival, they interviewed both the woman and the man involved. The sheriff’s office wasted no time in launching an investigation. Sheriff Chad Chronister emphasized the significance of their Human Trafficking Squad, stating that they play a pivotal role in responding to such scenes and employing their expertise to identify and rescue victims.
The investigation uncovered a deeply troubling story. The victim had crossed paths with the suspect, later identified as 52-year-old Mark Zillig, three months before the traumatic incident. The woman had relocated from New York to Florida with Zillig. Over the course of several months, he used coercive tactics to compel her to engage in commercial sex acts.
Zillig set up escort advertisements, communicated with sex buyers, and accompanied the victim to her appointments. He systematically groomed her, instructing her on what to say to sex buyers to ensure future encounters. Zillig also forced the victim to surrender half of her earnings from prostitution and even compelled her to get a tattoo as a symbol of loyalty, a tactic frequently used by traffickers to psychologically control their victims.
Despite the investigation, the victim expressed her desire to break free from this life of exploitation. The investigation yielded enough evidence to charge Zillig with multiple offenses, including Coercion for Commercial Sex Act by Human Trafficking, Deriving Support from Proceeds of Prostitution, Transporting for Prostitution, and Forcing Another to Become a Prostitute. Zillig, a convicted felon with a history of grand larceny, assault, and drug-related charges, now faces justice.
Sheriff Chad Chronister extended his heartfelt gratitude to the courageous victim for her bravery in coming forward and trusting the deputies. He also acknowledged the invaluable assistance provided by organizations like Selah Freedom, who worked closely with the detectives and offered essential resources to support the victim on her path to recovery. This case underscores the unwavering commitment of law enforcement and the community in the fight against human trafficking.