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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Hunt Heats Up For Deadbeat Dad; Former Congressman Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison; California Authorities Battle Child Sex Traffickers
Aired March 3, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again from Los Angeles.
Tonight, the hunt heats up for a deadbeat dad. He was let out of jail to save his son's life. Instead, he fled, crossing the border into Mexico. And police want your help to track him down.
ANNOUNCER: One of America's most wanted dads on the run after skipping out on the son he was supposed to donate a kidney to -- now what could be a major break in the case.
DAWN IZGARJAN, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: The couple who called in thought, man...
IZGARJAN: ... this is who we were vacationing with.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a 360 exclusive with the tipster who may lead cops to their man.
Judgment day for Congressman Duke Cunningham, the real-life Top Gun whose shocking bribing scandal has made this legendary airman a criminal. Could he become the most harshly sentenced congressman in history?
And, L.A. confidential -- a private eye to Hollywood's A-list suspected of breaking the law to dig up dirt, now he's under indictment. He might have to name names. Who's on his star studded list?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always guys stabbing each other in the -- in the back.
ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
COOPER: And good evening again.
We begin tonight with a manhunt for a guy who's not acting like much of a man -- and that is putting it gently. Here he is. Take a look. Byron Perkins is his name. He's traveling with his girlfriend, Lee Ann Howard. Now, take a good look. Mr. Perkins is a career criminal. He was in Kentucky -- in a jail in Kentucky, facing a 25- year sentence. His son, Destin, needs a new kidney desperately. It turns out his dad is a perfect match. Without it, Destin may die.
So, after begging for and winning a temporarily release to go help his son, Byron Perkins and the girlfriend bolted instead. Shortly after we first aired this story earlier this week, the two were spotted in Mexico, at a fishing village south of the resort town of Puerto Vallarta.
Tonight, only on CNN, we will hear from one of the people who saw our story and recognized the fugitive. She wants to remain anonymous. We will call her "Lynn."
She joins us by phone from somewhere in Washington state.
Lynn, thanks for being with us.
You and your husband, you were in the airport, on the way back from Mexico. You had just come back. You see this couple on -- on CNN, on our program. You just met them on vacation. What -- what did you do next?
"LYNN," MET RUNAWAY FATHER AND GIRLFRIEND IN MEXICO: Well, surprise and -- and shock was certainly our reaction.
My husband happened to glance over his shoulder and saw the -- the photos that you were running with your story and turned to me and said, you wouldn't have -- couldn't believe who I just saw on television. And we had to jump on the plane at that point, but as soon as we got back into Washington state, we got online.
And, sure enough, the photos matched exactly with a couple that we had spent several evenings with on the beach down in Boca de Tomatlan.
COOPER: So, what were they -- what names were they going under? What was their story when you met them?
LYNN: They're going by the name of Eric (ph) and Leah (ph).
And the story when we met them last Friday evening was that they had just arrived in Puerto Vallarta by airplane. And Mr. Perkins had either lost his wallet, or he thought perhaps somebody had taken it. He said that it was the first time they had vacationed out of the country. He had $2,000 in his wallet, along with birth certificates and I.D.s for both of them.
And, so, when they arrived in the -- the village of Boca de Tomatlan, they -- they had very little money with them. And that was our assumption when we met them and the -- the story that we believed at that time.
COOPER: And you kind of felt sorry for them. I know, at one point, you guys even -- your -- you and your husband, I think, even bought them a meal. What -- what were they like? I mean, did -- what -- what did they talk about?
LYNN: Well, at -- at that point, they -- they said that they were very stressed because of the situation they had run into, didn't have any money. They were in a foreign country.
They were concerned about getting their papers straightened out. And they had arranged supposedly through a friend of a friend to stay at a little house there in Boca, and they were having money wired to them, but, because of the weekend, they were not going to be getting that until Monday.
COOPER: You were...
COOPER: Now, you -- I'm sorry.
LYNN: Go ahead.
COOPER: You were -- you were actually able to give the authorities a very detailed description of the two, down to Perkins' tattoo. And I think we have a -- a picture of that tattoo. What -- what did they tell you about themselves?
LYNN: They were -- they claimed to be married. They had been married for 12 years. This was their first vacation away.
Mr. Perkins said that he had been in a motorcycle accident a couple years ago. Because of that, he had gotten a large settlement. He was living on that, as well as working construction part-time. And they were just...
COOPER: And he even talked about his son.
LYNN: Actually, he talked continuously about his son, which I think is the most surprising thing for us, for him to actually flee the country when his son was in need, because he was very proud of his son, talked about him continuously, the fact that he wanted to be a Marine. And he was very proud of him, said he was going to grow in to be a fine man. And he was just -- was sure of that.
COOPER: And -- and -- but he didn't mention anything about the son needing a kidney?
LYNN: Certainly. He didn't mention any -- any ill health whatsoever.
COOPER: Well, I mean, who knows what is -- what is going through this guy's head, if he's talking about his son growing in to being a fine man, knowing all along that his son desperately needs this kidney, and he is a perfect match.
And -- and I know that's really what motivated you to come forward. Let's hope other people out there -- or down there in New Mexico, near Puerto Vallarta, or maybe they're -- who knows -- maybe they're back in the United States, somewhere around the border region -- has seen them.
Lynn, I appreciate you not only contacting authorities, but coming on tonight to -- to shed some more light on -- on where these two may be. Thank you so much.
LYNN: You're welcome. Thank you.
COOPER: There is another search going on tonight in the Florida Panhandle. It's not for a fugitive and, people are hoping, not for the victim of foul play.
But the longer this pregnant young woman -- her is Ali Gilmore -- remains missing -- and she has been missing now for a month -- that is her picture, Ali Gilmore -- the colder the trail is getting. And, as the days go by, the chances grow slimmer for a happy ending.
Reporting for us tonight, from Tallahassee, here's CNN's John Zarrella.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): In the shadow of a billboard no mother ever wants to see, Laurvetta Grimsley McLawrence breaks down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really miss your voice. I love you so much. I don't know why. I don't know why. Lord...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will find her. We will find her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know why.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will find her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my baby. I want my baby back.
ZARRELLA: Her daughter, Ali Gilmore, expecting a child, simply vanished one month ago from her home here in Tallahassee, Florida. For police here in the state capital, it's a mystery like none they have ever seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't know -- we don't know where she is.
ZARRELLA: There are virtually no leads, no clues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no signs of a struggle inside. Ms. Gilmore is four-and-a-half months pregnant. She was very excited about the pregnancy. She had pregnancy books by her nightstand. She had a pregnancy book on her bed. She had baby clothes inside of another room.
ZARRELLA: Ali Gilmore left work at this Publix supermarket at 11:00 p.m. on February 2. That was the last time anyone saw her.
JAMES GILMORE, HUSBAND OF ALI GILMORE: We have been married for five years, been together for seven.
ZARRELLA: Gilmore and her husband, James, were supposed to meet the next morning, Friday, for a marriage counseling session. The two had been separated for a couple of months. Neither one showed up for the appointment. James Gilmore says he overslept. He tried reaching Ali to apologize, but she never answered the phone.
GILMORE: And I tried to get up with her over the weekend, but I kind of figured she was just upset with me, you know, she was avoiding me over the weekend because she was upset with me because I missed the marriage counseling appointment.
ZARRELLA: Police say James Gilmore says he was at his brother's house during the timeline for Ali's disappearance. He had been staying there since the separation.
GILMORE: I'm available for the police if they need me for anything. And, I mean, I don't have anything to hide from anyone, or the police, or nobody.
ZARRELLA: On Monday, February 6, when Ali didn't show up for work at her other job at the Department of Health, co-workers called police. They found her car at the house. Inside the house, nothing was out of place. Nothing had been stolen, no traces of blood. They searched a nearby construction site. Nothing.
TRACY SMITH, SISTER OF ALI GILMORE: Aliens swooped down with some radar beam and just perfectly took her off this planet, which I don't believe that.
ZARRELLA: Tracy, Ali's older sister, has led the effort to find her.
SMITH: I just have to believe every day that she's saying, Tracy, help me; come get me; help me.
ZARRELLA: Friends, family, police all say Ali Gilmore was not the type of person to just run off; she vanished, but not of her own will. Someone here, police say, knows what happened to Ali Gilmore.
John Zarrella, CNN, Tallahassee, Florida.
COOPER: Officer John Newland joins us now from Tallahassee.
Where does the investigation stand?
OFFICER JOHN NEWLAND, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Well, we're still at the same point. We still need information. And that's why we appreciate coming on here, Anderson, and -- and letting us plea to the -- to Florida and actually all of the United States, because a little break in this, some little piece of evidence, is going to break this case wide open. And we are just waiting for that one break.
COOPER: Her estranged husband, I understand, James, is considered a person of interest. Are there any others?
NEWLAND: Yes. We are -- we're looking at about four or five people who we are telling are persons of interest.
James is one of them. He knows that. He has been willing to come to -- to the police department and give any type of statement and -- and any interviews that we request. Some of the other people, we -- we are talking with.
At this point, right now, it's -- it's about four to five, maybe six, people that we're looking at.
COOPER: Are they all people who knew her personally?
NEWLAND: Yes. At this point, yes, because the last time anybody ever saw Ali was 11:00 p.m. at Publix's parking lot. And right now, the timeline is just -- we just don't know where she is. And, so, we're pretty much just looking at four to six people, again, who we are -- who we're concentrating on.
COOPER: And, I mean, there was no signs of a struggle in the house. Nothing had been stolen. Her purse was -- was still in her car, which was still in the driveway. What -- I mean, what does all that mean to you?
NEWLAND: Well, I mean, to us, we would think that would be a warning sign for us that something happened to her right away.
But, apparently, when you talk to other witnesses and family members, that is not uncommon, for Ali to leave her purse inside the car. So, right away, we weren't really thinking too much of it that she -- she wasn't there. But, then, when we found out from -- from co-workers that she didn't call and say that she couldn't be at work, that Publix called and said she wasn't at work again, and this is not her normal behavior, that's when we became concerned.
COOPER: Officer John Newland, we wish you luck in -- in the investigation. Thanks very much for being on.
NEWLAND: Well, Anderson, we appreciate it. Thank you.
COOPER: Well, as we discovered in the case of Lynn at the top of the program, any tip might be helpful, or, frankly, even a lifesaver.
So, if you have any information on where Ali Gilmore might be or what may have become of her, you're asked to call this number, 1-850- 891-HELP. That's 1-850-891-HELP, or 1-850-891-4357.
With the smell of corruption hanging over Washington, an ex- congressman is hit with a record prison term today. This guy actually made what he called a bribe list on a napkin. We are talking about jet plane rides, thousand-dollar-a-night hotels, boats, you name it. You will not believe how deep this guy's pockets were. And child trafficking, the sexual exploitation of kids, California cops are on the case, and we're by their side as they target sexual predators.
Plus, you're looking at the late John -- Pope John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin. We all remember that moment. But, tonight, there is new evidence about who was really behind the attack. The conspiracy theorists may have been right all along. We will have the details -- when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, now the sad and sleazy tale of Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham. Sleazy doesn't even begin to describe it.
He was once a Navy Top Gun. He's currently Washington's top con. Today, he was sentenced. And his new term is a new record. He was given the longest prison term for an ex-member of Congress, eight years, four months.
And you and I both know, the bottom line about corruption in Congress, if an elected official is willing to sell his or her influence, all that is really stopping him is a good conscience. It turns out, this congressman, he didn't have one.
CNN's John King investigates.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Randy Cunningham and high risk have been partners a long time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: His name is Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and he is a legend of airpower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The Vietnam ace whose daring exploits were an inspiration for Maverick in Hollywood's "Top Gun."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TOP GUN")
VAL KILMER, ACTOR: I don't like you because you're dangerous.
TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: That's right, Iceman. I am dangerous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And from famous war hero, Cunningham parachuted into a seemingly less risky business, politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY "DUKE" CUNNINGHAM (R), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Duke Cunningham, running for U.S. Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Duke Cunningham will be a congressman we can be proud of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now 16 years after that first campaign, San Diego Congressman Duke Cunningham's exploits are once again the stuff of Hollywood.
CUNNINGHAM: I broke the law, concealed my conduct, and disgraced my office.
KING: His corruption is stunning in its scope and in its sheer audacity, $2.4 million in bribes, at least, private jets for resort getaways, a California mansion, a Rolls-Royce, a lifestyle well beyond his means, and a thirst for more.
That appetite, longtime friends like Charles Nesby say, perhaps born of one of the same traits that made Duke Cunningham a successful ace, cockiness.
CAPTAIN CHARLES NESBY, LONGTIME FRIEND OF CONGRESSMAN CUNNINGHAM: That's nature of the beast in all of us that are fighter pilots. You're naturally aggressive.
KING: Naked avarice is what prosecutors call it.
And look at this: Cunningham actually scribbled this bribe menu on his congressional note back. Want a $16 million contract? The cost is a boat, B.T. for short, worth $140,000. Add in another $50,000 for each additional million dollars in contracts.
NORMAN ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: What Cunningham did is breathtaking.
KING: Norman Ornstein has been studying Congress for 30 years and says there has been nothing like this before.
ORNSTEIN: This is somebody who set out to live a lavish lifestyle by making sure he could shake down contractors, lobbyists, and interest groups.
KING: Thousands of dollars in meals at the Capital Grille and other pricey Washington restaurants, Cunningham's tab picked up by defense contractors -- private jets, again picked for by contractors, to whisk the congressman around the country.
The trendy Delano Hotel on Miami's South Beach was one destination two years ago. Twelve-hundred and fifty-four dollars for the room, $848 for Cunningham's meals at that time hotel, nearly $13,000 for the chartered jet -- Cunningham grew to expect luxury, the prosecution memo says. His co-conspirators eagerly plied him with it.
He was, after all, on the House Appropriations Committee, a leading voice on its Defense Subcommittee, able to insert multimillion-dollar favors into the Pentagon and other budgets. His Navy days gave him standing on military matters and stories worthy of the big screen.
CUNNINGHAM: I met my wife by singing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" to her at the Miramar Officers Club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TOP GUN")
TOM CRUISE, ANTHONY EDWARDS AND UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS (singing): Now it's gone, gone, gone, whoa-oh, whoa-oh, whoa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING (on camera): Perhaps they should have raised questions, some friends say, when a congressman with a $165,000-a-year salary bought a penthouse condominium here just outside Washington, in addition to the pricey home he owned in Southern California.
(voice-over): The condo came courtesy of a defense contractor's $200,000 down payment -- inside, tens of thousands of dollars worth of antiques the congressman demanded in exchange for favors, all now in a warehouse, awaiting government auction.
This is the boat from the bribe menu, the Duke-Stir, a flashy exhibit of Cunningham's lifestyle -- real estate records like these the more mundane evidence that would begin his fall from grace.
November 2003: Cunningham sold his home in Del Mar to a defense contractor for nearly $1.7 million. The contractor lost $700,000 when he resold it. That caught the eye of a Copley News Service reporter, and, then, that caught the eye of the feds. What they found is eye- popping.
NESBY: The power, -- and, then, some people handle the power correctly. Other people, the power can be misused. Duke lost his moral compass.
KING: Nesby is one of 40 Cunningham friends and family members who wrote the judge, appealing for leniency. In his letter, Nesby recalled a white Naval officer who took a risk, standing up for a young black pilot.
NESBY: It was not popular for him to do that, but I appreciated it. What he did, he leveled the playing field, and allowed me to -- to compete, and gave me what I deserved. And I will always love him for that.
KING: In his note to the judge, Cunningham wrote, "It all started very slowly and innocently," that he's sorry, worried about dying in prison. "But I will accept your sentence without complaint."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Randy "Duke" Cunningham will be remembered as an educator, a legislator, but, most of all, as a legend of airpower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A career that is the stuff of Hollywood, then...
CUNNINGHAM: In my life, I have had great joy and great sorrow. And now I know great shame.
KING: ... and now.
John King, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Unbelievable, a -- a list on -- on a napkin. Unbelievable.
Tonight, we're going to take you on a shocking investigation into the world of sexual slavery, children brought across our own border, forced to work as prostitutes.
First, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the top stories we are following right now -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
Some frightening moments today on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. A man raced in his SUV through a popular gathering spot -- it's known as "The Pit" -- hitting students, injuring nine of them, luckily, none of them seriously.
Police arrested the suspect after he called to surrender. He's a former student, a native of Iran, who allegedly said he acted to -- quote -- "avenge the American treatment of Muslims."
The woman known as the cell phone bandit making a little more of her 15 minutes of fame by turning it into 12 years in prison -- before receiving her punishment today, 20-year-old Candice Martinez tearfully apologized to the bank teller she held up. Martinez robbed four Washington-area banks late last year, handing notes to tellers as she chatted on her cell phone.
Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana -- hurricane survivors living on board a cruise ship will soon have to leave. Today, a federal judge shot down a lawsuit requesting that the Scotia Prince ship stay put for several more months. FEMA has been evacuating cruise ships used to house hurricane survivors, saying they need to return to private service.
And vacationers looking for a little sun in Hawaii getting a lot of rain instead. The unusual soaking has flooded some homes and roads. It has also caused extra waterfalls, some minor landslides, but, fortunately, no major injuries -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Erica, thanks.
Just ahead, a CNN exclusive -- one of the ugliest crimes on the book. The victims are just children forced to sell sex. And they are hiding in plain sight. We are not talking about in some faraway country or even in Mexico. We're talking about right here in the U.S.
And the case that could spill the secrets of Hollywood's rich and famous -- how a celebrity sleuth got the dirt he's famous for getting, wiretapping, threats. The question is what big names in Hollywood were paying his bills -- coming up on 360.
COOPER: And some breaking news to tell you about.
You are looking right now at the scene of a fire in Pompano Beach, Florida. It is just north of Fort Lauderdale. It is a fire burning right now, seemingly out of control, at a pallet warehouse. It is -- pallets, obviously, are used for shipping, often made out of wood or -- or corrugated cardboard -- so, obviously, a lot of material there that -- that could be burning. There is reports that one fireman may have been injured in the blaze. It's not clear at this point how long it has been going on for.
This is a -- the company, it's called Pallet Consultants. It's at 1000 Southwest 12th Avenue in Pompano Beach. It -- it is the -- it's a large enough fire that, actually, Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue, and a number of other departments, right now are on the scene, and may be get -- sending more assets to the scene.
As -- as that camera pulls out from the helicopter, though, you can see just the -- the width of this. It's a 10,000-foot warehouse, which is clearly just about gone at this point. They are -- there, you can see they are pouring water on it, trying to get some level of control under this thing.
The -- the pallets, well, as I said, they're -- they're mostly made out of wood, corrugated board. There's a lot of fuel there for the fire. There had been some reports of explosions, actually, on this site, in this warehouse. And -- and there had been one report that propane tanks may be used at the facility. We have not been able to verify that, however.
You can see some of those pallets in that tight shot there, though. And that really gives you a sense of -- of the scale of it. Again, about 10,000 square feet, that warehouse was. Firefighters have the entire area roped off, sealed off, and are trying to get this thing under control. We will continue to follow it throughout this hour.
Well, you -- you wouldn't know it from a casual glance, but, here in California, there is a war being waged against an enemy that goes to incredible lengths to stay hidden. It's a threat that operates underground, literally underground, deep below the surface of the earth. We are talking about secret cross-border tunnels used by drug smugglers and other bad guys. Since 9/11, authorities have found 35 of these tunnels, most of them right along the U.S.-Mexico border. And we showed you the most brazen example just over a month ago, a tunnel about a -- a half-mile long, 80 feet deep, decked out with sophisticated lighting and water pumps.
More than 20 -- more than two tons of marijuana were found in it. Now, here's the fact that really floored us. There is no federal law, not one, against actually building these tunnels. Just this week, a group of lawmakers introduced a bill to change that and make it a crime. The danger, of course, is that smugglers are using the tunnels for trafficking drugs, weapons and even humans. And we are not just talking about terrorists or illegal immigrants.
We are going to have more on that tunnel in our next hour.
But, tonight, in a CNN exclusive, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez uncovers some of the youngest victims of such human trafficking. They are children hiding in plain sight. This is their story.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Glendale, California, 2:00 p.m., a typical house in a middle-class neighborhood, but, inside, a half-dozen underage girls, some just 15 years old, are plied with drugs and alcohol, and they're taped having sex.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roll the tape, then.
GUTIERREZ: These young girls are being groomed to become prostitutes. Over several months, some are forced to work the dark, dangerous streets. And every penny will go to the men who run them, their pimps.
DETECTIVE MATT IRVINE, GLENDALE, CALIFORNIA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: As parents, we tell our kids never into a car with a stranger. These girls are being forced to get into cars with dozens of strangers every night in places that are specifically frequented by sexual predators, by men that want to take advantage of children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are talking about cotton candy up in here.
GUTIERREZ: This business, called cotton candy, is lucrative. It specializes in minors, and goes undetected, until, one day, screams are heard coming from this home.
IRVINE: This case started as a very routine police call for service. A neighbor reported that there was some kind of a domestic dispute, maybe a -- a beating going on, in a residence.
GUTIERREZ: When Glendale police arrive, a 17-year-old girl is being beaten by a man. But the officer is about to stumble on to something bigger, the underground world of child trafficking.
IRVINE: He wandered into the backroom to see who else was there, and discovered Web cams set up, sex toys scattered around, and what appeared to be a -- an Internet pornography operation.
GUTIERREZ: In a joint investigation with the FBI, Glendale Detective Matt Irvine discovers girls are being recruited by Casey Stinson (ph), a smooth-talking 19-year-old with a short fuse.
IRVINE: He bashed one girl's head against a sidewalk in Hollywood because she was talking to another pimp. He beat that same girl with a belt. He beat another girl with a belt.
GUTIERREZ: But Irvine says it's Casey's cousin, 40-year-old Steven Stinson (ph), who is the mastermind. And Stinson had served time for pimping minors in the past.
IRVINE: The girls who got pulled the furthest down into prostitution, the girls who were subjected to the most brutal beatings, who were put out on the street night after night, were runaways, kids in foster care.
GUTIERREZ: Kids with broken spirits with no one to watch over them. Like this 15-year-old girl, police say the daughter of a prostitute who was traded between pimps in three different states.
MATT MORIN, SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: They were advertising the services of their -- of their prostitutes via business cards, as well as Web sites. And they were also going from location to location in Arizona, in Las Vegas, back to Los Angeles, essentially to prostitute their child victims.
GUTIERREZ: Special Agent Matt Morin heads up an FBI child exploitation taskforce. He says moving American children across state lines to be sold for sex is a growing disturbing phenomenon right here in the U.S.
MORIN: We estimate that there are -- there are approximately 300,000 child victims here within the United States that are involved in child prostitution.
GUTIERREZ: Agent Morin says unfortunately child prostitutes aren't always treated as child victims. Many, like this 17-year-old who calls herself Chloe, end up in the criminal justice system.
(on camera): How many years were you in the business?
CHLOE, FMR. CHILD PROSTITUTE: Since I was 5 until now. So...
GUTIERREZ: Twelve years ago?
CHLOE: Yes, 12 years.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): It's hard to fathom, but Chloe says for the past 12 years of her life she's been sold to men, and it all began at home when she was just 5.
COOPER: Five years old. When we return, the shocking story of how Chloe lost her childhood before she had even finished kindergarten next on 360.
COOPER: Before the break we met 17-year-old Chloe, a child prostitute who says she was forced into prostituting herself when she was barely out of preschool. Chloe is just one of thousands of young victims that are hiding in plain sight across the country. They are preyed on by those who profit from the ugly business of child sex trafficking, and it is happening inside the United States.
Their story continues in part two of our exclusive report. Here again, CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): Chloe is just 17. These should be among the best years of a girl's life, full of opportunity and promise. Instead, Chloe sits alone in this juvenile detention facility as a child prostitute.
(on camera): How did you get involved in all of this?
CHLOE: My mom wanted drugs, and she would go do anything to get drugs. Well, when I was younger, around 5, my mom used to let guys come in and sexually do things to me.
I would scream, kick, scratch, bite, anything a normal little girl would do if some older man was trying to do something sexual to them. But it didn't work because they normally pinned me down.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): Chloe says she endured the abuse for several years until she left home.
CHLOE: I ran away from home and I came to San Diego. And I met a guy that was really older than me.
GUTIERREZ: By the time she was 13, Chloe was an experienced prostitute who had really never experienced childhood.
CHLOE: I never played with dolls or played in the sand or anything like that. I just missed out basically on everything.
GUTIERREZ: Chloe told me her pimps had trafficked her to Nevada, Utah, Washington and Canada. And she was never allowed to keep a dime to herself. Even if she wanted to stop being a prostitute, she would have to pay her way out.
CHLOE: Your leaving fee was $1,000. And if you didn't pay it, the repercussion is you get beat and you go out there until you make it.
GUTIERREZ: Through the years, she says she was beaten, raped and nearly killed. Ironically, Chloe only left the streets after she was arrested for drugs. CHLOE: I overdosed and I slit my wrists. And I was hoping I would die and that I wouldn't, you know, be alive, because I didn't think I was worth anything because all people ever did to me was use me.
GUTIERREZ (on camera): If people think that young children are not being trafficked in the United States, that it only happen in poor countries, what would you tell those people?
CHLOE: I would tell them they're wrong, because it happens here all the time, every day, around the clock, 24/7, it's happening here. Young girls more because older men, they want the younger ones.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): For those who do, Detective Matt Irvine sends out a stern warning.
IRVINE: We're watching. We care.
You know, when we're talking about child sexual exploitation, we're not just talking about 7-year-olds in pigtails anymore. We realize that some of these girls may be physically mature, but they're still children and they're still deserving of our protection. And the law is going to come down just as hard.
GUTIERREZ: And it did. Remember Casey Stinson (ph), the smooth- talking 19-year-old with a violent temper who ran Cotton Candy, this child prostitution ring? He was sentenced to 16 years for child exploitation.
His cousin, Steven Stinson (ph), was sentenced to 22 years for the same crime, plus child prostitution and pornography.
But Chloe says for girls like her the scars of sexual exploitation are a life sentence.
CHLOE: When I see a 5-year-old and, like, I don't know, I just see them doing things, I see myself wishing that I could have -- I could have been that little girl, you know, going to the beach and building a sand castle. But the realistic thing is that I can't go back in time.
GUTIERREZ: Chloe says she's determined not to be a lost cause.
CHLOE: It took me a while to get to this point. And I got to it, and I want to finish high school and go to U.C. Davis college and be a sign language interpreter.
GUTIERREZ (on camera): Why sign language?
CHLOE: Because I've always found an interest in kids with the disability of not being able to talk.
GUTIERREZ (voice over): Like the kid she once was whose cries were never heard when she was only 5.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Thelma, it's hard to believe that at age 5 this little girl was subjected to that kind of abuse. Where is she now?
GUTIERREZ: Well, Anderson, we first met Chloe about a year ago. She has since been released from juvenile hall. And we checked with law enforcement officials who have told us she has stayed clean and out of trouble. Also, Chloe told me that she agree to tell us her story because she wanted to reach out to other kids and prevent them from living the same dangerous lifestyle that she has.
She also said that despite the fact that her mother sold her into prostitution when she was just a little girl, she said she misses her -- Anderson.
COOPER: Hard to believe.
Thelma, thank you so much.
It is not a stretch to think that the dozens across border tunnels found along the U.S.-Mexico border could be used to traffic children, in part. And what's to stop terrorists from using them?
Coming up, a special 360 hour: "Battle on the Border." How big is the threat and what's being done to stop it? We'll take you underneath the U.S.-Mexico border.
But right now, a quick update on the breaking news out of Pompano Beach, Florida. A massive fire at a warehouse for shipping pallets. There you see it. That is a live picture.
About 10,000 square feet of space, the warehouse was. Most of it, as you can see, on fire.
Firefighters and police from neighboring Broward County are also on the scene. There are reports of some explosions possibly from propane stored on the site. The entire area is blocked off.
A firefighter from the North Lauderdale unit of the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department was taken to the hospital for injuries he sustained when he was hit by equipment. There's no word yet on the extent of his injuries. No word either on evacuations nearby or on what may have touched off this fire. Obviously, there's a lot of material that is very flammable in that warehouse.
It was a quarter of a century ago that a man shot Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square. Those pictures we shall never forget. Now conclusive evidence that the shooting was a plot. Who was the man -- or should we say men -- behind the gun? We'll have the new insight on the assassination attempt and the conspiracy behind it.
That's coming up on 360.
COOPER: Well, take a look at this picture. It captures one of the most dramatic moments in the 20th century. A massive crowd, the distinctive colonnade of St. Peter's Square, and in the middle, Pope John Paul II moments after he was shot three times at close range. Now, that's what you and I see.
Look more closely, however. You might see what a group of Italian lawmakers saw. More specifically, who they saw that convinced them that the attempt on the pope's life was not just the act of a Turkish zealot.
CNN's Delia Gallagher investigates.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The mystery began May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II was greeting a crowd in St. Peter's Square when shots rang out.
The pope was seriously wounded. The gunman immediately captured. His name was Mehmet Ali Agca, a 19-year-old Turk, a self-proclaimed militant and a member of the Grey Wolves fascist movement.
MEHMET ALI AGCA, SHOT POPE JOHN PAUL II: I am Jesus Christ in this generation. All the world will be destroyed.
GALLAGHER: Ali Agca ranted in court. His own attorney called him a "religious fanatic with delusions of grandeur." He was convicted and served 19 years in an Italian prison for attempting to assassinate the pope, although his victim almost immediately forgave him.
But one question went unanswered: just why did Ali Agca try to kill the pope? Though conspiracy theories seem to pop up everywhere, and over the years Ali Agca, himself, offered several different reasons for why he did what he did, one story seemed to remain constant.
JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: The most popular theory is that the Bulgarian Secret Police were the immediate coordinators of the assassination attempt and perhaps ultimately acting under instructions from Moscow.
GALLAGHER: Now an ongoing investigation by an Italian parliamentary commission has apparently concluded that was more than theory, that was the truth. According to a draft report obtained by CNN, the commission says Bulgarian agents hired by the Russian military hired Ali Agca to assassinate the pope.
SEN. PAOLO GUZZANTI, ITALIAN INVESTIGATOR: Bulgarian agents were just attendants (ph), just -- you know, the agents working at the order of -- whether KGB or more likely the GRU, the Soviet military service.
GALLAGHER: The Russian government has consistently denied the allegations for years, but the commission concluded the proof was in a picture.
ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: It basically puts in St. Peter's Square a Bulgarian agent known as Sergey Antonov. Now the report says that not only the picture is him, it proves that it is him, that it's beyond reasonable doubt, but he also basically says that this picture has been analyzed by experts and these experts believe that this picture is indeed Antonov in St. Peter's Square. And that creates the link between Antonov and Ali Agca, and eventually Ali Agca and the Soviet Union -- to Antonov.
GALLAGHER (on camera): As to motive, the commission's report seems to point back here, to the streets of Krakow in the pope's native Poland. At the time, Poland was under Soviet control, but the Workers Solidarity Movement was quickly gaining power and they had a high profile and powerful ally in the pope. In fact, the movement would event push Poland to break free of Moscow.
(voice over): Ali Agca is now back in prison, in Turkey this time, for a murder he committed there. In his last book, "Memory and Identity," the pope said he never believed Ali Agca acted alone. But though the two met in the years since the assassination attempt, the pope never pressed him to reveal his coconspirators.
ALLEN: I think in his mind it was about the powers of this world, the demonic forces that work in the world who were trying to interfere, stop the work of good that he was attempting to do.
GALLAGHER: Work the pontiff began here in Poland with a faith that was strong enough to carry a nation to freedom.
Delia Gallagher, CNN, Krakow.
COOPER: Well, coming up tonight, it is the case that had executives, Hollywood celebrities and even news media types all on edge. What would they do if BlackBerry was forced to shut down? Say it ain't so.
Tonight we know whether that will actually happen. The story's coming up.
Plus, battle on the border. A rare look inside the longest tunnel ever discovered between the U.S. and Mexico border. A passageway for underground crimes. We'll take you deep inside when 360 continues.
COOPER: We have just gotten some new information on this massive fire at a pallet warehouse in Pompano Beach, Florida. By the numbers, a five-alarm fire. Nineteen units from neighboring counties are on the scene. One injury, a firefighter from North Lauderdale who was hurt in the stomach while hooking up equipment on his truck.
Ten thousand square feet, and untold wooden pallets are burning. As you can see, they are trying to douse out the flames with water from many different positions, but those flames have been burning pretty steadily now throughout this hour. There are reports of some explosions, possibly -- and we say possibly -- from propane stored on the site. No word on exactly what may have touched off the fire. Certainly a lot of units, though.
Emergency personnel and firefighters on the scene. But that is a massive -- that -- the entire warehouse looks like it is pretty much gone at this point.
Erica Hill from "Headline News" joins us. Some business stories we're following right now -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR : Yes. And Anderson, as you mentioned before the break, some good news for mobile multitaskers. I know you're one of them.
COOPER: All right, Erica. Thanks. Yes -- OK.
On the radar tonight, our update on miner Randy McCloy, recovering faster and better than expected from weeks in a coma. On the blog tonight, no debate on this one.
Diane in Hartington, from Nebraska, writes, "Whew" -- is it whew or whoo she -- I think she wrote more of a whoo. Anyway, "I've been wondering what was happening as Randy is recovering. It is such a relief to hear that he is back in the real world and that miracles still do exist. Thanks for reporting a feel good story. We need a lot more of these."
From Angie in San Antonio, "Having stayed up to the wee hours watching the Sago Mine tragedy, thanks for finally finding a story with a happy resolution. Bring on the floats, the Academy Awards and especially the courageous spirit of a young man whose personal strength and loving family allowed him to beat the odds in this strangely convoluted world we live in."
And from Megan in Douglas, Georgia, "This is a true miracle," she writes. "I hope Randy and his family will be able to deal with all of the media and attention and to not forget that they are blessed no matter how much the attention gets to them."
And as always, we welcome your views. Just go to our CNN.com/360 site, click on the link to our blog, and find the entry that strikes your fancy, or, I don't know, makes your blood boil, and jump on in.
I want to thank our international viewers for watching.
Coming up, a special hour of 360: "Battle on the Border," waging war against the bad guys and the tunnels they are using to get into this country. How big is the threat and what is being done to stop them? We will take you deep inside one of the biggest tunnels they have ever found, next on 360.
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