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CNN PRESENTS

Selling the Girl Next Door

Aired February 6, 2011 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: My name is Winter.

(voice-over): This is how it works.

(on camera): I would love to meet new people. I'm 17.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're 17 years old?

LYON: So these guys would try to have sex with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LYON: Did they know you were 13?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

LYON: Men buying girls barely into their teens online.

(on camera): Would you say they were 14, 15?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

LYON: You don't know?

(voice-over): The sex trade has moved off of the streets and on to the Web and the girls are getting younger and younger.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is a child. It's disgusting.

LYON: This is how the girl next door gets sold.

Las Vegas, Nevada, 35 million Americans come here every year. It's a nonstop party out on the strip but if you look passed the carefully marketed glitz, you are going to find one of America's dirty little secrets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $89. Huh?

LYON: Teenage girls, some barely past puberty, routinely bought and sold for the pleasure of grown men. And every year, hundreds end up right here at the Clark County Juvenile Detention facility.

(on camera): How many 13-year-olds do you usually see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A few. Like every once in a while, we get 11, 12, and 13-year-olds. LYON: So we're just heading back to the holding room where these girls stay while they wait for the judge to call them and hear their case.

How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Amber.

LYON: Where is everyone from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chicago.

LYON: You?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Detroit.

LYON: From Detroit. And?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Washington state.

LYON: Washington state. So no one here is from Las Vegas?

This is called a belly chain. And all the girls have these around them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is everyday life. We have to deal with it.

LYON (voice-over): This is where we first meet 13-year-old Salina, just another girl next door turned into a product, sold by pimps, used by men.

(on camera): Backpage.com.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I know Backpage.com. And -- all that. I did all that so.

LYON: How old were you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twelve?

LYON: Twelve?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LYON (voice-over): She was caught in a casino by undercover police and locked up. According to the law, Salina is a sex-trafficking victim, not a criminal. But like most underage girls who were sex trafficked she has a history of running away from home.

And that's a dangerous thing in cities across America where pimps are always looking out for girls who are out on the streets alone.

Here, at least, she is safe.

(on camera): What is it like when you're all alone in your room, in yourself? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes you think a lot and you get real depressed, like real depressed. I just like want to cry. Like I cannot believe I'm in here. I always (INAUDIBLE) the real locked up and I'm here. I'm locked up.

LYON (voice-over): Salina moved here with her mom from Detroit three years ago.

(on camera): When did you start noticing that there's a problem?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think -- she was about -- she was 11. You know little things that, you know, a cigarette, a joint, some beer that you think is just going to pass and then it just didn't pass.

She did great in sixth great, excellent. A's, B's. And then by the end of seventh grade, it's just the crowd that she was hanging around with. And just her whole attitude went. Her school work went.

LYON (voice-over): Then, Salina started running away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me and my mom got in a fight and I was, like, I'm leaving. She said, OK. And I left.

LYON: So you and your mom got in a fight, you ran away, you were walking down near the Vegas Strip and some guy pulls up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I was at the bus stop. And then he said, oh, do you need a ride? And I was, like, yes, I do.

LYON: How much did you like this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked him a lot. I was like straight up obsessed. Not obsessed. But I was like, oh, my, god, he is so cute. And like, it wasn't like, oh, bitch, go get me money, that wasn't like that at first, but then it got like that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is an absolute ham. Yes.

LYON (voice-over): They live in a suburb outside Las Vegas. Salina's mother is a middle school teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is her when she was little. Look at how adorable she was. Just little things that she got along the way. This is her little bible thing from bible school. This is her little angel doll, just little things that she has.

LYON (on camera): Who is Vinny, she said rest in peace, Vinny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I don't even know.

LYON: You don't even know who he is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

LYON: Richey, she has a heart next to him.

What do you know about what's been happening to your daughter on the streets?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't. I don't know. I mean honestly don't know what's happening. I only know what she tells me and she doesn't really tell me anything.

LYON: Do you think she's worried if she told you that you might be really upset with her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she's embarrassed. To be honest. Because I've told her, you know, somebody is going to give something, too many pills or whatever, and they're going to use you for what they want to use you for, and you're done for.

LYON (voice-over): Her mother sent Salina to therapist, tried tough love, but nothing has worked. Salina's mom is certain that if she comes home again she'll run.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She wants to leave so bad that it becomes like a struggle. A couple of times before, I'm like, you are not leaving and this is the middle of nowhere. Like how do you get anywhere? So I followed her in my car. She like just sped across to the next sub. And she was gone that fast.

LYON: Salina was sold by a man and a woman over the Web site Backpage.com for the standard rate of 300 bucks an hour, 150 for the half.

(on camera): Did you ever want to run away and go back home and see your mom or call the police or someone to help you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I ran away, I was going to get killed. And if I told the cops, I was going to get killed. Even the littlest things could have gotten me killed. The little things. They can get anybody killed.

LYON: And the guys that call you, how old are they?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't know until they walk through the door or you walk through their door. Like, they could sound like they were like 21, you walk in there and they're like, old and disgusting.

LYON: Did it make you feel kind of disgusting?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It made me feel -- it made me feel so nasty. I would just want to shower. It was so disgusting. And it never made me feel pretty, not one time.

LYON: And at this point, how many guys were you seeing a day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At that point, like five, four.

LYON: Four or five guys a day?

(voice-over): But Salina is hardly alone. There are hundreds of thousands of girls just like her across America. And for the first time in the long history of the oldest profession, there is a powerful new tool for people who seek profit or pleasure from underage girls, the Internet.

(on camera): Crystal, Samantha, Destiny.

(voice-over): Undetected, out of sight and happening every day in every corner of America.

(on camera): You pick up the phone. And you find a girl you like on Backpage.com, call her and meet with her. How long does that usually take?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty minutes.

LYON: So you can get a girl as quick as you can get a pizza?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LYON (on camera): Does anyone need a mask? Does everyone have one?

(voice-over): We're giving these guys ski masks to conceal their identities.

(on camera): Here you go, there you go. Over here. All right.

(voice-over): These men have pled guilty to soliciting prostitutes. None of them pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor.

They are attending John's School here in Nashville, Tennessee, in order to wipe their records clean. They are going to spend eight hours in class learning about STDs, the effect of prostitution on the community and the risk of prison time if they get caught again.

(on camera): Raise your hand if you're in your 20s. So we have one, two. 30s? 40s? Fifty years old. OK. We got one, two, three. 60s? 70s? One. Anyone 80s? One.

ANTOINETTE WELCH, ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They are everybody. They are rich, poor, medium income. They are every ethnicity. They're married, single, divorced. It is the most diverse crime I've ever seen for any type crime that there is.

LYON: Antoinette Welch is an assistant district attorney for Davidson County, Tennessee. She used to be a police officer who spent almost a decade out on the streets undercover posing as a prostitute busting Johns.

WELCH: A lot of these girls that are being pimped out on the internet are underage girls. By law, they are children. You all better be real careful if you decide to do it again because I guarantee, you're going to eventually get some underage girl and you're going to get popped for it. And when you're convicted, you will be on the sex registry for the rest of your life.

Think about that. LYON (on camera): How many of you guys are married? Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13. Could you just say one word that describes what you do for a living?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Computer programmer.

LYON: Computer programmer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Auto mechanic.

LYON: Auto mechanic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trucking.

LYON: Trucking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Landscaper.

LYON: Landscaper?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Construction.

LYON: Construction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Retired.

LYON: Retired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transport.

LYON: Transport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forklift operator.

LYON: Forklift operator. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Computers.

LYON: Computers? Computer programmer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.

LYON (voice-over): A third of the men in this room were caught buying a prostitute on the online classified site Backpage.com.

(on camera): How -- what exactly do you do? Do you do it from your living room, from work? And then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cell phone.

LYON: From your cell phone? You can actually surf Backpage on your cell phone? And how many times a week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two or three.

LYON: If you don't mind me asking, sir, do you have a family? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LYON: Do they know that --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

LYON: They don't know.

(voice-over): He's a businessman in his 50s, he's married and he has kids.

(on camera): When some people watch this interview, they're going to be really upset with you. How can this guy pay for sex? How can he buy women like commodities? What would you say to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I have an addiction.

LYON: To sex?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think it's an escape. And there's no strings attached.

LYON: So how long does it take you? Say you pick up the phone and you find a girl you like on Backpage.com, call her and meet with her. How long does that usually take?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty minutes?

LYON: So you can get a girl as quick as you could get a pizza?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

LYON: Well, Backpage tells us that the girls posting under the escort section aren't selling sex. What do you say to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know you've got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding. What are they selling then?

KENNY BAKER, NASHVILLE JOHNS SCHOOL: We are on Dickerson Road. This is a known area of prostitution.

LYON: So this is the track of Nashville, Dickerson Road.

BAKER: Dickerson Road. Yes.

LYON (voice-over): Kenny Baker is program director for the Johns School.

(on camera): Over the years, have you seen more or less girls out here walking the track.

BAKER: You know, as times change and the technology moves forward, we're seeing less street-level prostitution and we're seeing more of the stuff on Backpage. So they're really using the Web a lot more.

LYON (voice-over): Thirteen-year-old Salina's pimp sold her to men on Backpage.com out of cheap hotel rooms near Las Vegas.

(on camera): We snuck in some contraband, a Coke. Look at that face.

Did they know you were 13?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. Well, the guy I was with at the time told me to tell everybody that I was 19 or 18.

LYON: So this guy you were with, was he your pimp?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LYON: Did any guy ever say to you, you know what, you look like you might not be 18, come on, what's your real age?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Because they didn't care. They didn't care if I was -- even if I was like 5 years old, they wouldn't care because they're having sex with somebody. So they wouldn't care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is her in the DARE program. Who would have guessed?

LYON: What would you say to these guys who are paying for sex with your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's disgusting. I think the whole -- I think our whole society is so out of control with accepting this and saying that it is OK. And you know it is what it is. She's a child.

LYON: Did you ever suspect that any of the girls that you found were underage and lied about their age? Yes? Did you find those girls on Backpage.com? Yes. And by being under age, would you say they were 14, 15?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know.

LYON: You don't know?

BAKER: They are only thinking about themselves, not about anything else, only their immediate needs.

LYON: And not about these girls?

BAKER: No, they're not even -- no. It is just an object.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I mean I believed that Backpage is responsible for this. I mean, again, it should be taken away, the whole thing doesn't have to --

LYON: Just the escort section?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the escort section. The adult section should be gone.

LYON: So you're saying Backpage just normalizes the whole process?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

LYON: You go on, you buy furniture.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

LYON: You find a job, you can buy a girl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes.

LYON (voice-over): Coming up.

(on camera): Young, sweet, bubbly, all things that could indicate she's underage?

(voice-over): Do these websites know what's going on? Do they care?

(on camera): What are you guys doing to protect these girls?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LYON (voice-over): Look closely at these escort ads on the Internet classified site, Backpage.com. Can you tell how old these girls are?

A couple of months ago, Salina's face was on the front of one of these online ads. Her pimp was forcing her to sell her 13-year-old body to strange men for sex.

(on camera): So this guy, your pimp, what happened if you hid some of the money?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then I would get my ass whipped.

LYON: He would beat you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LYON (voice-over): Salina's real father has been absent from her life. She says that keeps her up at night writing songs about the dad she doesn't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clothes your eyes. OK. All those daddy daughter dances that I had to go alone, it just made me grown.

LYON: You wrote that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

LYON: That's really impressive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really?

LYON: Who did you write that about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My dad.

LYON: About your dad. (voice-over): Pimps across America prey on girls like Salina, luring them in with gifts and love and then selling them for sex online. And it's become more profitable than ever.

The Internet is plastered with lies but this is one of the boldest. The term escort. Websites like Backpage.com that advertise escorts make it clear that the site is not to be used by anyone offering, quote, "sexual favors" for money but, come on, we all know what's often being sold here is sex.

(on camera): What would happen when guys responded to your ads on Backpage?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in Motel 6. So they would come there.

LYON: How many guys a day would you see?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. It depended on the day. Sometimes like two or three or four.

LYON (voice-over): Last year, we investigated the Internet site, Craigslist. Victims' advocates called Craigslist's adult services section the Wal-Mart of child sex trafficking. We posted an ad to see what was up.

(on camera): So I want to show you how easy it is for these pimps to use Craigslist to sell their girls. We're suggesting with our ad that we could possibly be underage with words like sweet, innocent, new girl in town. This could be an ad for an underage girl. So we're going to see what kind of calls we get.

(voice-over): And when the calls came in, there was no question what these guys wanted.

(on camera): Yes, this is Ashley. $200. I do both. We have another call. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering, um, how much for (INAUDIBLE) job?

LYON: Excuse me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much for a blow job?

LYON: $200. What do you mean, is everything covered? Maybe I'd go $150. Excuse me? We can discuss that when you get here. Look at the photo on this one.

(voice-over): And there's another big lie when it comes to online sex ads. And that's age. If an ad says a girl is, say, 13, it's going to be immediately banned. So pimps sell the girls using code words like young, fresh, innocent.

When we took an ad that was loaded with code words to Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, he was unable to answer a simple question.

(on camera): I mean what do you think she's selling in her bra and underwear? A dinner date?

CRAIG NEWMARK, FOUNDER, CRAIGSLIST.COM: I've never -- I don't know what this is.

LYON: What are you guys doing to protect these girls?

(voice-over): Our investigation helped spark a national conversation and outrage.

(on camera): Attorneys general from all across the nation sent this letter out to Craigslist. They are calling on Craigslist to completely shut down the adult services sections.

(voice-over): Just weeks later.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Over the weekend, Craigslist shut down its adult services section slapping a censored label in its place on its Web site.

LYON: But when Craigslist shut down the adult services section, the pimps and the Johns migrated to the next most popular site, Backpage.com, where you can buy a car, a used couch or an underage girl for sex. Backpage charges five bucks per escort ad and according to the Internet firm the AIM Group, Backpage.com's monthly earnings jumped by more than $1 million after Craigslist took the adult services section down. Backpage is projected to earn more than $20 million from its adult ads alone in 2010.

We found cases of underage girls being sold for sex on Backpage.com all over the country.

Backpage is owned by the Village Voice Media Group and chances are you've seen one of their publications.

(on camera): "Seattle Weekly", "Miami New Times", "River Front Times", San Francisco --

(voice-over): We've been trying for months to talk to top management at Village Voice Media, including president, Jim Larkin, about the sale of underage girls on the site. He refused to talk to us.

Last fall Backpage hired Internet security adviser Hemu Nigam to implement, quote, "a holistic plan centered around preventing criminal activity on our site."

What is their holistic plan? We don't know because Hemu Nigam wouldn't talk to us. On his Web site, Nigam promised to look into what impactful changes can be made to provide a safer site.

The most obvious change, the full-on nudity on Backpage.com is gone but ads like this are still everywhere. And the men who used Backpage, they haven't changed.

(on camera): I'm 17. You sound like you could be my dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen? You're 17 years old? What do you think we should do about this?

LYON: What do you want me to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.

LYON (voice-over): Coming up.

(on camera): My name is Winter.

(voice-over): I post an ad on Backpage.com.

(on camera): Today, I'm actually heading out to be sex trafficked as a 17-year-old girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client, he's worth millions, sweetie. So anything we do, we do corporate. That way we don't have to worry about any Tiger Woods issues, if you know what I mean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Now for your headlines. There is breaking news tonight with police officers wounded in shootings in Detroit and Port Orchard, Washington.

We will start in Detroit where four police officers were shot inside their station house. One underwent surgery but none of the injuries is believed to be life threatening. The gunman was killed when officers returned fire.

In Port Orchard, Washington, our affiliate, KIRO, K-I-R-O, reports one person has been killed and two deputies wounded in the shooting at a Wal-Mart. Sheriff Steve Bouyer (ph) says the deputies and another person were taken to a Tacoma hospital. An employee said the store was immediately locked down with about 100 people inside.

Federal kidnapping charges have been filed against a woman suspected of snatching a baby more than 20 years ago. Ann Petway who was wanted on an unrelated arrest warrant surrendered to the FBI today in Connecticut.

Petway allegedly kidnapped an infant from a New York hospital in 1987 and raised the girl as her own child. That woman, Carlita White, recently discovered her true identity and was returned last week with her biological family.

Make sure you join me in the NEWSROOM at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll have updates on all these stories for you.

Want you to get back now to CNN special investigation. It's called "SELLING THE GIRL NEXT DOOR".

LYON (on camera): I'm going to sell myself for sex on Backpage.com just like a 12-year-old we found was sold on the site.

(voice-over): We posted an ad under escorts on Backpage's Tennessee site. Almost identical to an ad used to sell a 12-year-old girl we found. That picture is me when I was a young teenager.

(on camera): I got to tell you it was quite awkward calling my dad and asking him to send me a picture of myself when I was 14 so I could post a sex ad online.

I have a copy here of her exact ad. It says, my name is Winter and I would love to meet new people. Ad price, five bucks. They posted it online. So there I am at 14. Let's see if we get any calls.

(voice-over): Four minutes later, the phone rings.

(on camera): Hello.

(voice-over): I tell the callers I'm underage. It doesn't seem to matter.

(on camera): Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Allen. I saw your ad on Backpage. And I was wondering about your rate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was wondering if you're available tonight.

LYON: How old are you, Matt? You sound kind of young.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm 34.

LYON: I'm 16.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixteen. OK.

LYON: Oh, gosh, we got another one. Hello. What are you looking for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sex.

LYON: Oh, you are looking for sex, OK. I'm not old enough to drink. I'm 17. I can't -- I don't have a fake I.D.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh really? You're 17?

LYON: Mm-hmm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good.

LYON: I just got woken up by my pay-as-go phone ringing. What's your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronnie.

LYON: I'm 17. You sound like you could be my dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seventeen? Your 17 years old?

LYON: Yes, I'm 17.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would I want to even consider having sex with a 17-year-old woman whose underage?

LYON: No one needs to find out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's exactly what I said. What do you think we should do about this?

LYON: What do you want me to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you? You want to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me?

LYON: Today, I'm actually heading out to be sex trafficked as a 17- year-old girl. Hello. I ended up getting a call yesterday from a guy who says he is working for a high-rolling client, a 60-year-old plus guy who's really interested in me, he likes my photos. It's from my ad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client, he's worth millions, sweetie. So anything we do, we do corporate. That way we don't have to worry about any Tiger Woods issues, if you know what I mean.

LYON: One thing led to another. Now I'm being sent to North Carolina to meet this guy. He just called.

(voice-over): I tell the caller I'm underage. But it doesn't matter. He still arranges the meeting.

(on camera): Hello.

(voice-over): I even get a call to set up my hotel room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing? He's authorized the suite for five days. And I need to go to over some things just to see what you want in your suite. What you want stocked in the mini bar.

LYON: OK, I'll just have the suite fully stocked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You have to be very discreet.

LYON: OK. I'll be discreet.

(voice-over): On the way to North Carolina, the caller entices us to keep driving.

(on camera): He just sent me a couple images of a cashier's check they have waiting for us, for $35,000. He's been telling me all morning, he wants to just prove to me that they are legit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. You got everything?

LYON: Yes. I got everything. So the check is real and everything, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes, god, yes.

LYON (voice-over): The hotel was in the middle of nowhere, an easy place for a 17-year-old to go missing. So we brought security.

(on camera): So I'm going to be wearing this shirt and right here is our hidden button cam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go. Entrance to the hotel.

LYON: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You go through a resolving set of doors and then the main lobby area is in front of you.

LYON: So we are heading out to the car.

(voice-over): The guy who was trying so sell me told me to buy half a dozen disposable credit cards from the local supermarket.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Common sense will tell you, sweetie, you should go get your cards. I mean, you got $30,000 waiting on you.

LYON: Take them to the hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the main thing is you get down what you need to get paid and get in your suite.

LYON: And he'd transfer all of the money on to my new cards. We scoped out the meeting place and confirmed that this offer was real.

(on camera): I could only afford one card but I have it here. So whatever we can do now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

LYON: I could get tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, he's not going to be able to release anything to you. He's going to have to release the whole $30,000 at one time.

LYON (voice-over): But since I wasn't about to sleep with anybody for money, we pulled the plug. The point where we stopped is the start for so many underage prostitutes.

Next, we'll take you to the most famous legal brothel in America to hear what its owner thinks of these pimps who sell underage girls.

DENNIS HOF, OWNER, MOONLIGHT BUNNY RANCH: Pimps are the worst leaches in the world.

LYON: And we'll hear from the woman who work at the "Cat House."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been in the game since I was 13.

LYON: Women who got started in the oldest profession way too young.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LYON (on camera): We are here on the Las Vegas Strip where you can buy tickets to a show, a five-star dinner and also a woman. If you have ever walked down here at night, you have heard that sound. It's like, all these guys up and down the strip with these cards and magazines.

(voice-over): Behind the obvious advertising, there is a hidden trade in underage girls and huge hidden profits. According to one study, pimps pull in anywhere from $150 to $500,000 a year.

We wanted to know more about the business of selling girls. So we met a guy who knows more about that than anyone.

HOF: Hi, honey, how are you? There's a lot of sexual trafficking going on in Las Vegas.

LYON: Dennis Hof. He has been called America's pimp master general but he considers himself a businessman. And what he does is legal.

Hof is the owner of the most famous legal brothel in America, the Moonlight Bunny Ranch. It's the setting for HBO's long-running reality series "Cat House."

HOF: People love the sex business and I love being a part of it.

LYON: What he doesn't love are pimps.

(on camera): You think pimps just suck.

HOF: Pimps are the worst leaches in the world. It's in Birmingham, it's in Charleston. It's everywhere. It's everywhere in America. There are pimps that are trying to grab the life of young girls and take them away from their families.

LYON: And what type of money are pimps pulling in?

HOF: Tens of thousands of dollars a week.

LYON: A week?

HOF: Yes. Absolutely.

LYON: What is it about underage girls? Why -- do pimps make more money off of them? Why are there so many underage girls?

HOF: They're easily manipulated. They're young, they're naive. But the price they pay is horrendous.

LYON: We're driving right now to Lyon County, Nevada, to talk with Dennis Hof and go see his Bunny Ranch. You know you hear names on the street, people calling prostitutes, shut, hoes, whores. But what a lot of people in this country don't realize is that the majority of prostitutes out there started in the business as sex trafficking victims.

(voice-over): Hof says that he wants to set the record straight, let the public know that life in his legal brothel is a far cry from the lives of most American prostitutes.

HOF: Come on, girls. Ladies, this is Amber. She's here visiting to spend some time with you girls. Wants to meet you all. We get (INAUDIBLE) every month or two. They come in and make their money, and go back home and lead their life.

Want me to walk you around and show you everything?

LYON: Yes. Yes.

HOF: There's just rooms down here. And the girls decorate them like they want. Yes, we want people to be comfortable. LED, plasma TVs.

LYON: Yes. It looks just like a regular bedroom. What is this?

HOF: This is a swing.

LYON: I don't quite know how this works.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really easy.

LYON: All right. Let's move on to the next room. Just boobs in the hallway. It's just boobs.

(voice-over): The women here are in the safest and most profitable environment possible for a sex worker.

HOF: This is used one day a week for a couple of hours.

LYON: They're tested weekly for STDs. They have panic buttons in the room that they can hit if a client gets out of line and they also keep half of their cash. Some make six figure incomes.

(on camera): Have you ever marketed a girl as being just turned 18?

HOF: Oh, absolutely.

LYON: But is there really a difference between 17 and 45 weeks and 18 years old?

HOF: Our congressmen need to work that out. They're the one that made the decision that -- when you're 18, that you can join the military, you can kill people, you can do porn, or you can work at the Bunny Ranch.

LYON: Do you ever worry that girls watch the show, "Cat House" and see how well the girls are treated here and think wow, I want to be a prostitute. I'm going to be treated that well, too. And then they end up on the streets in the hands of a pimp?

HOF: I don't want anybody to be in the illegal prostitution world. It is awful. It is terrible. And they are preyed upon by everybody.

LYON: So I know you guys are all of age now and you're in the business now legally but how many of you were sex trafficked, underage when you started in the business? Can you raise your hand real high? So we have one, two, three.

(voice-over): We counted hands and asked the women to tell us their stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am from Seattle and I started hoing when I was 16.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got started in the sex industry since I was 15.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been in the game since I was 13.

LYON: All were effectively sex slaves controlled by pimps and all were sold online.

(on camera): What happened if you didn't get calls, if you didn't get any response from Backpage. What would your pimp do for you then?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had to be out on the street. And we had a $500 minimum. And if we didn't make our minimum, then we had to basically stay out there until he told us to come in.

LYON (voice-over): Jazzy was trafficked by a pimp named Sweet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was 15 at the time. And that was when Sweet wasn't so sweet.

LYON (on camera): What percentage of the money that you made turning tricks did you give to your pimp?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no percentage. They get all of it. They get all of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I did get raped out there. I was more scared of -- I wanted to leave and for being raped, so I just kind of sat there and laid there. Because I wanted to see my mom, I wanted to see my dad again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Virginity wasn't an option where I came from. You know, it was tooken (sic) from you. And so when you -- when you get into the game or when you, like, have somebody tell you, you know, you can sleep with me for money and you already lost your virginity, it was like, why not, like, you know, it's like, why not. Sex is not as sacred as it once was.

LYON (voice-over): When we come back --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to go home. That's all I want.

LYON: Salina's fate is decided.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LYON (voice-over): Federal law says that if you are under 18 and you are being sold for sex, you are a victim, not a criminal. That's the law but for thousands of American girls who get arrested every year on prostitution charges, this is the reality. Belly chains, ankle cuffs, a locked sell.

Susan Roske is a public defender for the girls here.

(on camera): Is it hard for you to see them come out with belly chains like they are real prisoners?

SUSAN ROSKE, PUBLIC DEFENDER: It's so hard. And I can't imagine being the parent of one of these girls seeing it. Society looks at them like they're whores, they're just prostitutes, not seeing them as children that are being manipulated and abused.

LYON: It's pretty crazy if you think about it. But in counties all across America, the only place to put these victims is detention centers to lock them up to keep them from roaming back out on to the streets and back into the hands of their pimps.

This is Fritz Reese and he's going to give us a tour of the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center. This is a facility where these juvenile sex trafficking victims are being held.

FRITZ REESE, CLARK COUNTY JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER: Well, unfortunately, there's not a lot of options in terms of resources or alternatives to put girls.

LYON: The best resource our country has right now to take care of these juvenile sex trafficking victims is this, a three-inch mattress, no vent. They don't have any pictures on the walls, no TV, nasty- looking toilet. They are locked in here at night just like a prisoner.

(voice-over): This is where 13-year-old Salina, who was sold for sex by a pimp on Backpage.com, is being held, it's the Clark County Juvenile Detention facility. Nobody thinks that these kids should be locked up but nobody wants to risk turning them loose.

JUDGE WILLIAM VOY, CLARK COUNTY FAMILY COURT: So this is a good example of one.

LYON: Judge William Voy is the family court judge in charge of Salina's case. He keeps an old case on his desk to remind him why these girls need to be safe.

VOY: She was released on February 7th and she was found dead on February 10th. She was murdered and her throat was cut. You can always theorize that yes, maybe they would be alive but this one, I know it. I know it.

LYON (on camera): So why do you keep this case on your desk every day?

VOY: I keep it here because it reminds me that if I had her in the house, she'd be alive.

LYON (voice-over): Judge Voy is trying to get funding for an alternative to the jail, a safe house for the girls who cycle in and out of his courtroom. (on camera): Judge Voy right now is driving us out to an area of town where they've been planning to build a facility for these juvenile sex trafficking victims.

VOY: It starts right here. It's not a detention center, it's not an institution.

LYON: You have bedrooms instead of cells.

VOY: It looks like another wealthy homeowner in Vegas, right? And that's what we want it to look like. These kids are messed up in a lot of different ways. And they need a lot of help.

LYON (voice-over): Voy says private donors will pay for the land and the building. All he needs is $700,000 a year from the county to pay for probation officers. But the county won't pay.

VOY: We can't get to the next level. And it's extremely frustrating.

LYON: It is not just this county. There are almost no places for these girls anywhere in America. And all the federal funding for sex trafficking victims has gone to foreign girls. American girls have been shut out. Girls like 13-year-old Salina, now stuck in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, that's my favorite picture in the world. I love my little sister more than anything in the world. I miss her so much.

LYON: Salina wants more than anything else just to go home to be with her little sister.

Today, Judge Voy and Salina's mom are trying to figure out what's best of her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be with my family and watch my little sister grow up. I'm sorry for the things I have done. And I'd do anything to be with my family.

VOY: You said that with only one breath. So you are my best judge, right here. You know this child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, I want my child to come home. But we need a plan. I mean it's not --

VOY: Yes. I understand what you're saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

VOY: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's saying all this, I want to go home. That's all I want.

LYON: But she is not going home, because no one can say for sure that she won't just run away, back to the streets, back to the pimps.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So am I going to be here for like nine months? I just want to go home.

LYON: Salina's mother is burnt out, terrified Salina will run again and vanish forever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is horrible. You hear everywhere of kids, you know, being picked up and you never, ever see them again. So it's a horrible feeling and no matter how many times that I talk to her about it, it's just like she's just not getting it. She is not.

LYON: Salina's mother is a teacher and she is used to dealing with kids but her daughter is a mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know I just have a kid that actually goes to school and comes home and does their homework and you know -- watches TV, you know. It's tough.

I don't want to, you know, take away anything from her because she's great in her own way. It's just, I don't know, I feel like she's lost to be honest. I do.

LYON: Salina is now getting help through a court-ordered drug treatment program in another state but her future is uncertain at best.

There are thousands of girls just like her, caught up in an industry driven by lust and greed. Now online and better than ever. At Selling The Girl Next Door.