A Facebook post that went viral sparked allegations of sex trafficking against a phone repair kiosk manager in Springfield, Missouri. Now, the owner of the mall kiosk has spoken out against the allegations, and police say the writer of the Facebook post has refused to cooperate with an investigation into the matter.
The post, written by a Facebook user named Hannah Grace, 20, on Sept. 6, included a close-up photo of an iPhone that had two blue dots illuminated at the top, KY3 reported.
The photo was accompanied by a lengthy caption that explained her experience at the Talk N’ Fix kiosk at the Battlefield Mall in Springfield. In the post, she also accused the employees of being involved in sex trafficking.
According to Grace, she didn’t pay attention to the blue lights on her phone until opening her maps application.
“I opened up my maps for the first time after my phone was returned and there was a dropped pin in some Arab country that I'm totally unfamiliar with,” she wrote. “Within the next few days of me receiving my phone, I kept receiving a notification that my SIM card was unavailable and I would have to restart my entire phone to get it working again.”
She returned to the kiosk, where she claimed she was ignored and told that the blue sensors had always been there. She also claimed that she was followed by a “Caucasian man covered in tattoos” after visiting the kiosk.
“After discussing my situation with a few apple employees, I was consistently told that all of these signs are major indications that my phone was being monitored by somebody,” she wrote.
“I notified the mall security and the university as well filed a police report, and the police took my complaint seriously, pointing out the fact that these men could very well be involved in the underground sex trafficking that has started to become a major issue in Missouri, specifically in college towns like Springfield," she added.
Grace’s post quickly went viral, garnering over 41,000 shares before it was inexplicably removed.
Kiosk owner Zhi Zhou responded to the post, calling the allegations “insane,” “ridiculous” and “out of the blue.”
“I think that it’s our competitors trying to give us bad name,” he said in a phone interview with the Springfield News-Leader. Zhou also took to Facebook to dismiss the allegations.
“We have factory equipment, and our tech is certified and knowledgeable to get the job done quickly and safely!” he wrote. “Anyone who sees this 10 stars rating will get 30% off our store prices! Which is already lower than our competitions. We will win fare [sic] and square! The true story!”
Zhou maintained that the blue light on the phone was not a tracking device, as Grace claimed, but rather was a proximity sensor — which turns a phone’s screen off when a person is talking into it.
On Tuesday, a police spokesperson said that both Grace and the manager of the kiosk had contacted the department in reference to the Facebook allegation. However, the investigation into the matter is stalled because Grace has refused to cooperate with the investigation and will not turn over evidence to the police, police say. Thus, her case will be suspended.
Zhou says he wants an apology from Grace, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
Photo credit: news-leader.com