A well-known Alachua County accountant has been arrested on three counts of human trafficking and could face up to 90 years in prison. Three women have been released after six months of captivity, but area experts in sex trafficking say their new freedom is just the first step in the process of their recovery.
Timothy Deegan, 53, had a clean record aside from narcotics possession and drug paraphernalia charges, which authorities dropped after he met the standard requirements of a deferred prosecution program.
“He’s not the typical person that is a multi-convicted felon,” said Sgt. Becky Butscher, public information officer for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies began an investigation on suspicion of a case of sexual battery last December.
“During the course of that investigation, there were no charges filed because the females were both mutual combatants, so a theft report was taken,” said Butscher. “During the investigation, it was divulged that one of the victims had possibly been sexually battered, and as a result, Mr.Deegan was brought in and interviewed and admitted post-miranda to committing the sexual battery.”
That investigation was ongoing, and led to Deegan’s arrest last Friday — and the release of three women. Butscher said Deegan held the women hostage for six months, controlling them, but was able to go unnoticed since he was such an unlikely suspect.
“He was providing them with drugs in exchange for sex, and he was also keeping them in the residence… watching them… monitoring their every move through surveillance cameras, also monitoring when they did leave through GPS on their phones, and removing doorknobs to prevent them from leaving,” Butscher said. “He was videotaping sex acts with them and streaming them online.”
Deegan is charged with trafficking because deputies say he was consistently coercing the women with drugs for sex and house-cleaning.
According to the Florida Department of Health, trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining, by any means, and person for labor or services involving forces labor, slavery or servitude in any industry, such as forced or coerced participating in agriculture, prostitution, manufacturing, or other industries or in domestic service or marriage.”
‘They’re rescued, everything’s okay … it’s not’
Ark of Hope for Children is a local organization providing support for human trafficking victims. Its founder, Blair Corbett, focused his organization on trafficking six years ago when victims sought help and emotional support from Ark of Hope online. Corbett says being rescued is simply not enough for victims. Many continue to suffer from issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and drug addictions that demand love and compassion for recovery.
“We as a people are very naïve to think, ‘Okay, they’re rescued, everything’s okay’…it’s not.” said Corbett.
Corbett also said it is naïve to think that trafficking only occurs in big cities – he believes it happens in small towns right under our nose, like in this recent case.
“It’s such a lucrative business because unlike arms and drugs, you get to sell them once, but in trafficking, you get to rent a victim as many as 20 times in one day,” he said.
Research by Shared Hope International, an organization aiming to prevent sex trafficking conditions, revealed that pimps commonly sell underage girls for up to $400 on America’s streets.
Corbett said stereotypes about traffickers need to be abolished: “We have to ask ourselves: what does a human trafficker look like? What does a pimp look like? Is it always the stereotype that we expect?”
He said to prevent future instances of human trafficking, people need to be aware of their surroundings and report any oddities to authorities He urges people to recognize that someone who is prostituting themselves is often being forced to do so by another.
As for victims, support is available in Gainesville through organizations like Ark of Hope and Defender Foundation, another local human trafficking rescue agency.
“There has to be ways to reach them, even if they’re still in their situation…we really want to wake up this community and others to let these victims know they’re not alone, and that they have a chance to survive and thrive,” said Corbett.
Deegan is due in court on June 24th.