Officials in North Carolina said that reports of a woman and an infant believed to be missing and in danger turned out to be a scam.
The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office said on Feb. 1 that a woman, Danilla Bethea, was arrested on 10 felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses and one count of false reporting to law enforcement.
The sheriff’s office stated it received a report of two female parties, mother and daughter, believed to be “a female infant child, born to a female named April Morrison.”
On Friday, February 1, 2019,the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office arrested Danilla Mitzia “Missy” Bethea, on 10 counts…
“The reports initially indicated that Morrison was being held against her will and provided information that led investigators to suspect may be victims of human trafficking or prostitution,” according to the sheriff’s office. “The report initially suggested that the infant child was sold for monetary value or in exchange for elicit narcotics either by Morrison’s consent or by force.”
But officials interviewed Bethea, who said Morrison was safe and the baby was in the care of a third party.
The department later determined that Bethea made up the story and that “April Morrison was a fictional character and there was no infant child named Lee Ann Morrison.”
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Bethea’s false claims were allegedly made to try and receive money, the officials said.
“The image of the infant child provided was an image obtained allegedly through social media,” according to the Sheriff’s office.
“The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office takes every single report of a missing person and/or child seriously. The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office is trained and ready to respond to, and act swiftly and thoroughly in all reports of any person who may be suspected of being victim to human trafficking or, sexual servitude,” said the office.
“The Scotland County Sheriff’s Office believes that in any report of a missing person and, especially any missing juvenile or infant child regardless of the nature of how they came to be missing, is extremely important and a matter that must be addressed immediately and as expediently as possible. This includes information sharing, local, state and federal resources, and information sharing with all available media outlets. This ensures maximizing the potential that a missing person, and especially a child, could be found safely by law enforcement and search and rescue personnel,” it added.
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Bethea is being held at the Scotland County Detention Facility, ABC11 reported.
According to local news outlet WBTW, a 30-year-old woman named Danilla Missy Bethea has two prior convictions in North Carolina, including larceny and littering.
There were 464,324 missing children reported in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2017, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Under federal law, when a child is reported missing to law enforcement, they must be entered into the database. In 2016, there were 465,676 entries.
“This number represents reports of missing children. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total,” the center noted.
In 2017, the center said it assisted officers and families with the cases of more than 27,000 missing children. In those cases, 91 percent were endangered runaways, and 5 percent were family abductions.
About one in seven children reported missing to the center in 2017 were likely victims of child sex trafficking.
The number of reported missing children has significantly decreased in recent years, according to a 2017 report by the Department of Justice (pdf). The number of children reported missing dropped from 6.5 per 1,000 children in 1999 to 3.1 per 1,000 in 2013.
Missing children typically fall into five categories: kidnapped by a family member, abducted by a nonfamily perpetrator, runaways, those who got lost, stranded, or injured, or those who went missing due to benign reasons, such as misunderstandings, according to the report researchers.