Kelly Johana Suárez: Where is Miss Cartagena Contestant and Human Trafficker Now?

Image Credit: El Universal

Helmed by Alejandro Monteverde, ‘Sound of Freedom‘ is an action drama movie that follows the incredible true journey 0f Tim Ballard, a federal agent who quits his job after rescuing a young boy from trafficking. With steady determination and a heart of steel, he infiltrates the dangerous Colombian jungles to rescue the child’s sister, who is being held captive by child traffickers.

While looking for the girl, Tim realizes that a woman named Giselle had recruited the siblings on the pretext of getting them modeling gigs but has instead trafficked them. Interestingly, Giselle’s character is loosely based on Kelly Johana Suárez, a former beauty queen accused of running a child trafficking racket. So, how was Kelly apprehended, and where is she nowadays? Let’s find out.

Who is Kelly Johana Suárez?

A resident of Obrero, a poor neighborhood in the South of Cartagena, Colombia, Kelly seemingly had a difficult childhood with limited means. However, she turned things around for herself when she enrolled at the Colegio Mayor de Bolívar as a Social Work student. Kelly claimed that she wished to raise awareness about the problems in her community and help at-risk youth. In 2013, she participated in the Miss Cartagena beauty pageant and entered the modeling industry, quickly gaining wide popularity for her confidence and beauty.

Image Credit: El Universal

Not just that, but the young model appeared alongside multiple Grammy award-winning Latin musician Juanes in his famous music video, ‘La Luz.’ Kelly’s success as a model and beauty queen further strengthened her reputation as a leader in her community, with people trusting her to work for the neighborhood’s betterment. Hence, when she began recruiting young boys and girls with the promise of getting them modeling jobs, parents believed her and entrusted their kids in her care.

Kelly ran a modeling agency named Stage Models Caribe with Samuel David Olava Martínez, which she used to hire kids. However, things took an unbelievable turn on October 11, 2014, when the 22-year-old beauty queen was arrested along with 11 others by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Attaché Office in Colombia and the Colombian Attorney General’s Technical Investigative Corps Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit.

Conducted in three Colombian cities — Cartagena, Medellin, and Armenia — the bilateral operation was aided by organizations like Breaking Chains and Underground Railroad, the latter run by former Homeland Security agent Tim Ballard. Colombia’s Navy and Coast Guard also assisted with the arrests. According to official records, Kelly was attending a beach party on the Caribbean Islas de Rosario islands, with around 25 minors present at the event. Besides, it was later discovered that they were allegedly brought there to be sold to tourists, with some even being drugged with ecstasy and cocaine.

Moreover, Kelly was reportedly caught trying to sell an 11-year-old girl’s virginity to a foreign sex tourist. Sex tourism is rampant in Colombia, so federal agents went undercover as tourists to expose and capture the culprits. While it was revealed that Kelly and three other individuals at the party were caught engaging in child trafficking, 85 minors were rescued from all three locations in the operation.

Kelly Johana Suárez is Presumed to be in Prison, Awaiting Trial

Upon arrest, Kelly Johana Suárez and all eleven others were charged with human trafficking of minors, pimping, and pandering. As per investigations, the beauty queen would recruit minor boys and girls through her modeling agency, only to make them supposedly attend parties with foreign sex tourists. The entire operation happened after US agents began tracking a man from Miami who would often frequent Cartagena and be spotted with a taxi driver. The latter allegedly supplied the US national with explicit videos of young girls and boys and was part of a group that drugged and brought minors to parties to sell them to tourists.

At the time of her arrest, Kelly was held at the San Diego women’s prison in the Bolívar department. Although, since there haven’t been any public updates regarding the matter, we believe she’s still in prison awaiting trial. While Kelly maintained her innocence and claimed she was unaware of the child trafficking activities at the party, if convicted of the charges against her, she would face between five and 20 years of imprisonment. Nevertheless, since further details of the case haven’t been made public, we can only assume that the former Miss Cartagena contestant, now in her early 30s, is still detained and awaiting trial.

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