Having worked as an airline agent for nearly three decades, Denice Miracle has checked innumerable passengers onto their flights. And that experience may have led her to grow somewhat suspicious when she was approached by two teenage girls attempting to fly first class. Then, Miracle noticed a chilling sign that the girls were potentially in grave danger…
Miracle, a 47-year-old customer service agent from Roseville, California, has worked as a customer service representative for American Airlines since 1991. In more than 26 years on the job, then, she has likely dealt with individuals from all walks of life.
What’s more, that experience has equipped Miracle with people skills that have helped her sense when something is amiss. So, when two teenage girls approached her desk at Sacramento International Airport on August 31, 2017, she immediately knew that something wasn’t quite right.
For starters, the two girls, aged 15 and 17, were traveling without a parent or accompanying adult. They were also heading to New York City – quite a distance from California. And, all in all, Miracle didn’t often see two girls traveling the whole way across the country without supervision.
Then, the customer service representative grew increasingly suspicious when the girls were unable to present any form of identification. Although a passport is a required form of I.D. for international travel, you don’t have to have one to board a domestic flight. Instead, another form of state-issued photo I.D., such as a driver’s license, is deemed acceptable.
What’s more, the girls were attempting to board their flight on one-way first-class tickets. That in turn led Miracle to wonder how two young women could afford such a luxury. When the agent started questioning the teenagers, though, the girls looked to each other and their phones for answers.
In February 2018 Miracle explained the situation to Today, saying, “It just didn’t feel right. They were young and by themselves. It’s unusual to get teens traveling that far by themselves.” She added, “One of the girls was texting someone on the phone to get answers.” And none of it really added up for the customer service representative.
Furthermore, the girls were only carrying small bags; in Miracle’s mind, that didn’t seem to be appropriate for a one-way journey to New York. She came to the conclusion, then, that the teens were perhaps running away from home. As Miracle tried to process the tickets she had been given, though, she came across a vital clue.
In short, the credit card used to buy the airline tickets online was in a different name to either of the girls. The card also had a flag on it, which suggested that it may have been used fraudulently. So, Miracle informed the young women that there was a problem with their tickets and asked them to wait for a while until the issue was solved.
In the meantime, going with her gut instinct that something was amiss, Miracle called for assistance. “I told a supervisor, ‘I’m going to call the sheriff. It just doesn’t feel right to me,’” she told WISTV in February 2018. And, fortunately, it wasn’t long before members of the airport bureau of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene.
Then, while questioning the girls, the officers were told that the pair were jetting off to New York for the weekend to meet a man whom the teens had befriended on Instagram. The plan, according to the young women, was that they would do a little modeling and make appearances in music videos, hopefully netting them $2,000 as a result.
What the girls hadn’t realized, however, was that the airplane tickets they were supplied were actually only valid for one journey. Furthermore, they hadn’t told their parents where they were going. Instead, they each claimed that they were sleeping over at the other girl’s house for the night.
And in February 2018 Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Sanderson explained to The Independent, “When I told them that they didn’t have a flight home, that’s when it kind of sunk in that maybe I was actually telling the truth.” So what was the truth that Sanderson believed Miracle had uncovered by listening to her gut instinct?
Well, the officer told The Independent, “In my opinion, what was going to happen was they were going to go back to New York and become victims of sex trafficking,” And while at the time the girls had been adamant that they wouldn’t have done anything they hadn’t wanted to, Sanderson had insisted that they most likely wouldn’t have had a say in the matter.
The man the girls were allegedly in contact with, meanwhile, was called “Drey”; police don’t believe that he was using his real name, however. As soon as law enforcement began to investigate this individual, though, his online presence completely disappeared.
Indeed, Sanderson would later explain to WISTV, “We attempted to look Drey up on Instagram. [Then] just a few minutes after our contact with him, he erased all of his profiles on social media.” Police also believe that Drey had used a Google phone number, which is practically impossible to trace.
And it’s also thought that the man allegedly involved was adept at making friends with impressionable girls on social media and sucking them into his web of deceit. What’s more, luring young women with the promise of modeling work or music video appearances is apparently a common tactic.
Certainly, that’s the case according to Mary Frances Bowley, the founder of child exploitation awareness organization Wellspring Living. She told Today, “That is a typical scenario about how traffickers will lure girls or trick girls into believe there is something better for them using the internet and many different apps.”
Fortunately, though, the girls were eventually returned safely to their families. And one of the teens moms’ even tracked Miracle down on Facebook to thank her. There, she wrote, “That was my 15-year-old daughter. There are no words to express our gratitude to you. Because of you, my daughter is home safe with her family where she is loved and belongs.”
Meanwhile, American Airlines general manager Aleka Turner would issue a statement on the situation, saying, “I’m proud of Denice and how she put her training into action to save these children. She is a testament to the critical role our frontline team members play each and every day in the operation and the lives of each person they come in contact with. She’s a true professional with a huge heart.”