A Florida father traveling with his two daughters said he was stopped at the airport and humiliated in front of other passengers as authorities accused him of human trafficking.
Jonathan Marcu said he took his daughters to New York where they saw a Billy Joel concert and had a great time before returning to Florida on Monday.
The trio boarded a Spirit airlines flight at New York's LaGuardia Airport bound for Fort Lauderdale.
Airlines and airport workers are advised to be on the lookout possible victims of human trafficking, who could be showing up in South Florida against their will.
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Marcu said that he ended up on the very dark side of that effort for absolutely no reason.
"They walked up to me and they said 'can you come with us sir?' I said 'can you tell me why?' And they were like 'no sir, can you just come with me?' Well, like I’m with my two daughters. They were like 'they can come as well,'" Marcu said in a Zoom interview.
Marcu said that Broward Sheriff's Office deputies were waiting at the gate. He said he was separated from his daughters, ages 17 and 21, and deputies questioned them at the gate while passengers coming off the flight gazed as they walked by.
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"I said 'what’s this about?' They said 'there was a passenger on the plane who said you’re human trafficking.' I said 'really?' I said 'is this a joke?' They said 'it's not a joke at all sir,'" Marcu said. "They brought my two daughters to me who were, the younger one was actually very distressed, the older one was handling it a little bit better."
Marcu said the family was questioned for about 35 minutes before they were allowed to leave.
"I get human trafficking and it's a big problem but there was zero red flags. I mean, there’s not reason for them the question me whatsoever. I did nothing to deserve it," Marcu said.
BSO officials told NBC 6 they got a 911 call claiming there was a case of human trafficking aboard the plane, but deputies who responded to the gate determined the call was unfounded.
Marcu said it's the airline who should have better procedures to investigate such a serious accusation.
"One of the flight attendants actually stopped and said 'I am really sorry you have to go through this sir but when somebody yells fire, we need to see if there is a fire,'" Marcu said. "And at that point my daughter asked 'Was the passenger who complained about this sitting next to us?' He’s like, 'No, he was actually on a different side of the plane.'"
"There’s got to be more to it than just some passenger looking at me and two kids and saying 'that guy is a human trafficker.' There’s no way they could have thought anything could be out of the ordinary, wrong," he added.
In a statement, Spirit Airlines said they are investigation its procedures on detecting and reporting human trafficking.
“We reached out to our guest to learn more and informed him that we are conducting an investigation per our procedures. The safety of our guests and team members is our top priority, and we believe the travel industry plays an important role in the fight against human trafficking. Our team members receive training in this area, and we have procedures in place to work with law enforcement," the statement said in part.
Marcu said he hopes the experience doesn’t ruin the holidays for his daughters.