A Palm Beach Shores man has become at least the 11th man to be charged with human trafficking this year in Palm Beach County, following an undercover prostitution sting at an undisclosed hotel.
Sheriff’s deputies said Daniel Jose Agosto’s alleged victim told them that Agosto has sold her into her prostitution for more than two years, collecting almost $1,000 a night. If the woman refused to work, or if Agosto suspected she might leave him for a client, he would beat her, the woman told investigators.
Human trafficking is the use of fraud, force or coercion to exploit another person for sex, labor or domestic servitude. In January, the county formed a task force, led by State Attorney Dave Aronberg, that has focused specifically on cracking down on the crime.
On Wednesday, a 23-year-old man became the first person this year to be found guilty of human trafficking in the county when a jury convicted him on charges stemming from a February kidnapping case in Boynton Beach.
Since his arrest Thursday, Agosto, 34, on three occasions has refused to appear before a judge for his initial court hearing.
His arrest came after investigators took a 28-year-old woman into custody Thursday. She had posted an advertisement on the website Backpage and negotiated a rate of $400 an hour for sexual services with an undercover detective, according to a sheriff’s arrest report.
When the woman arrived at the hotel, a team of detectives was signaled to take her into custody. The woman then divulged that she was being forced into prostitution by Agosto, the sheriff’s office said.
Agosto and the woman have a history that dates at least to June 2014, when Agosto was arrested in Jupiter on an attempted murder charge. At the time, authorities alleged that Agosto fired a gun into the woman’s car while she was driving in The Heights neighborhood off Donald Ross Road near Interstate 95. The woman was not injured.
Agosto pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and was credited with 92 days of jail time, according to court records.
In the most recent case, the woman told investigators that Agosto quit working about two years ago and began prostituting her on Backpage. He showed the woman how to set up an online profile and suggested she charge $300 per hour during the summer and $400 an hour during the busier winter months, authorities said.
Agosto allegedly drove the woman to all her calls — riding in a white 2010 Mercedes-Benz to Thursday’s meeting with the undercover detective — and collected the money from each call. The woman said Agosto did not seek work as she paid all the bills.
After being arrested, Agosto declined to speak to investigators and invoked his right to an attorney, the arrest report said.