NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - A New Port Richey man is accused of being at the center of a human trafficking ring and targeting some of the most vulnerable women, Pasco County deputies said Wednesday.
Clent Ruffin, 59, was already in jail on major drug charges following a SWAT team raid of his home on Polk Street last August.
Detectives last summer already suspected that there was more than drugs going on in Ruffin's house.
"This is human trafficking. This is sex trafficking. And it's happening right here in New Port Richey," said Melanie Snow, a spokesperson for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
Snow said Ruffin would target women in strip clubs along U.S. 19 and convince them to come back to his house.
Deputies believe Ruffin would then get them hooked on drugs, like heroin, and force them to do sexual favors for his customers; in return, the women would get more drugs.
"This is the prime example of a man who was using drugs to coerce, to entice women," Snow said. "He would go to area strip clubs to try to bring in new recruits."
Snow told FOX 13 News, detectives continued their investigation after the drug bust last summer and focused on trying to find victims who would open up about what was going on.
"In this case, we needed to find out who our victims were, identify them and determine the severity of this case," she said.
According to the arrest report, detectives believe Ruffin would use money from his customers was used to satisfy "never-ending debts owed to the defendant by the victims."
Some of Ruffin's neighbors said they thought something bad was going on in his house.
"We knew that there was something going on, but didn't know exactly what it was. We knew that there was a lot of women going in and out there," said Chuck Fosnight. "We knew that there was probably some drugs going on, but we didn't know what kind."
Fosnight watched the raid in person.
"I was standing out there by the road and I was thumbing up the cops, the sheriffs, saying 'good job!' And we were glad to see they were going down," he said, adding he's seen a difference in his neighborhood since Ruffin has been in jail. "Totally different atmosphere. Totally different community. It's a lot nicer."