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Deputies Arrest Youth Pastor & Foster Parent for Human Trafficking 

For Immediate Release : Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Release Number: 23-025



Deputies Arrest Youth Pastor & Foster Parent for Human Trafficking 

Deputies have arrested suspects involved in human trafficking after finding their victim on a chat app.

On February 9, 2023, #teamHCSO's Human Trafficking Section began investigating a case after a mother found disturbing content on her 16-year-old's cell phone. Through investigative means, detectives were able to learn that Moises Escoto, 36, of Temple Terrace, had made contact with the victim two years earlier on a chat and meetup app called Sniffies. Since the initial contact, Escoto solicited the child for sexually explicit pictures and videos in exchange for money and gifts. The suspect was also meeting with the underage teen secretly and engaging in sexual acts. Escoto was currently a youth pastor at Iglesia de Cristo Misionera Mahanaim Church located at 10902 N. Armenia Avenue. He was arrested by Human Trafficking detectives on the same day.

During the course of the investigation, detectives also found another suspect who also found his victim on the Sniffies app, and engaged in sexual acts with a child in exchange for money. That suspect was identified as Joel Lutz, 38, who lives in Pasco County and is a registered foster parent. Working with FDLE agents, and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, HCSO Human Trafficking detectives arrested Lutz on February 15, 2023, at his place of employment, an Outback Steakhouse in Pinellas County.

"It is absolutely disgusting that these two men, who were placed in positions of mentorship and trust with children in our community, used online apps to seek out and victimize our youth," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "Unfortunately, we know that predators are constantly on the hunt to ruin the innocence of our community. I urge parents to know where and what their children are doing online at all times. We will not stop searching for these deviants wherever they may be, and we ask for parents and the community to help us protect our precious children."

Both Moises Escoto and Joel Lutz are facing charges of Human Trafficking for Commercial Sexual Activity, Lewd or Lascivious Battery, Use of Computer Services or Devices to Solicit Certain Illegal Acts, Traveling to Meet Minor After Using Comp Services or Services to Solicit Certain Illegal Acts, Use Of Computer Services For Lewd Or Lascivious Exhibition Defendant Over 18, Transmission Of Harmful Material To Minor, Unlawful Use Of Two-way Communications Device, Unlawful Sexual Activity With A Minor, among other charges.

This investigation remains active. Anyone with information is asked to call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at (813) 247-8200.

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: