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HCSO arrests sexual predator who made teen victim sign creepy agreement

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At a news conference on July 28th, Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced that the HCSO had arrested a 56-year-old man on charges of human trafficking- commercial sex acts, two counts of felony sexual assault, and a litany of others following a juvenile runaway investigation.

On July 10th, the Charlotte County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office contacted the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office about a runaway teen who had left home on July 9th. Investigators in Charlotte County tracked the teen’s cell phone to an address in the 5000 block of Pinehurst Drive in Spring Hill and requested deputies attempt to locate the teen. Deputies went to the residence and found the runaway female teen, a young adult female, and 56-year-old James Peter Houllis. At the time, both Houllis and the young woman told deputies they thought the teen was 18. Houllis said he believed the teen had been “kicked out” of her residence in Spring Hill, and he had paid an Uber driver to go there to pick her up.

Book In Photo of James Peter Houllis w/m 2/22/67 Photo: HCSO
Book In Photo of James Peter Houllis w/m 2/22/67 Photo: HCSO

The teen was taken to a local runaway shelter until her father could arrive. The teen told shelter workers and later detectives that she had become acquainted with Houllis and the other female after meeting them on an obscure dating app. As the conversation progressed, the teen agreed to travel to Spring Hill, believing she would meet the woman. The teen was then sent an “agreement” to sign, entitled “Dominant and Submissive Agreement.” She accepted the agreement, and Houllis sent an Uber to pick her up.  

The “Agreement” offered to provide everything a teen who was unhappy at home could want – food, clothing, being “in our family,” being treated with “love and respect,” and even “a lovely home on the ocean.” But there was more. The contract also called for the teen to be treated in essence as an enslaved person, even referring to Houllis as “owning her.” The terms of the agreement stated Houllis could discipline and punish her as he saw fit and called for the teen to submit to his every whim, including sexual desires on demand. The teen gave investigators a copy of the agreement that Houllis had sent to her.

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The teen told detectives that when she arrived at Houllis’s residence on July 9th, the three ate dinner, watched a movie, and smoked marijuana. When Houllis wanted the three to have sex, the teen said she didn’t want to have sex but was told by Houllis that she had to because she had signed the agreement for food and housing. Houllis also allegedly forced the woman to perform a sex act on the teen. At some point afterward, Houllis took the teen victim shopping for clothes.

When interviewing the young woman who had been with Houllis, detectives came to believe that she was a victim of Houllis as well. The woman confirmed the teen’s account of events and said that at one point, Houllis had strangled the teen during sex until she intervened, and Houllis strangled her instead. The woman said she did not want to perform a sex act on the teen, but Houllis forced her to. The woman added that she believed she was obligated to Houllis because she had signed the same contract as the teen. According to the woman, Houllis was in control at all times when they were communicating with the teen on the dating app, and at times Houllis would use the app pretending to be her.

Through the interview, detectives learned that the young woman also met Houllis online while in Colorado over a year ago. It is believed she was a juvenile at the time. The woman said that Houllis forced her to have sex for money with multiple men while in Colorado and that she traveled with Houllis when he left the state. Colorado authorities have been contacted and are now looking into those cases.

Detectives obtained warrants and arrested Houllis on July 11th. Houllis was booked into the Hernando County Jail on felony charges of Sexual Assault (2 counts), Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, Unlawful Use of a Communication Device, and Kidnapping. Houllis was issued a no-contact order by a judge, forbidding him from contacting either female. Upon being returned to the Hernando County Jail, Houllis called the teen victim from jail and told her not to cooperate with investigators and to drop charges. As a result, he was also charged with violating conditions of release and Obstructing Justice, according to jail records.  On July 27, he was charged with human trafficking- commercial sex acts.

When interviewed, Houllis admitted to detectives that he had sex with both women and that he had sent the contract to the juvenile using his personal email account. He affirmed the “terms” of the contract as financial support in exchange for sex.  Houllis said he had believed the juvenile was over 18. He also told detectives several times during the interview how fortunate the victim was that he provided for her.

Houllis is no stranger to violence against women, as he has a history of Domestic Violence Causing Injury and Domestic Battery Involving a Firearm in California. Those incidents occurred in 2014. Houllis was also involved in another incident in Aurora, Colorado, involving the battery of a young adult woman. That case was dropped after the woman stopped cooperating. The Aurora police report listed Houllis as the woman’s father. It is unknown if he actually was the woman’s father because the agreement Houllis uses with his victims specifies that women call him “daddy.”

Detectives described Houllis as someone who moved frequently, noting that he has had over 53 residences since 1980. They believe he had been in Spring Hill for less than a week, stating that his prior Florida residences have been in Miami, Hollywood, and Hudson, following Colorado and California.

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone who may have been a victim or know of a victim of Houllis call their office at 352-754-6830.

Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Bill Gladson said, “Cases like this speak to the importance of educating the public about human trafficking and to make sure detectives have the tools necessary to identify it while doing their investigation. Human trafficking is happening much more than any of us realize, making it all the more important that law enforcement and the public are educated to recognize it.”

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