Los Angeles County officials have announced a massive operation that saw thirteen girls and a young woman rescued from the largest sex trafficking ring on the West Coast.
LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra say they have made numerous arrests in what they have described as the “largest human trafficking and child sex slavery network in the United States.”
Califonia law officials confirmed that the ring had expanded beyond Hollywood into a national web that involves sex, fraud and theft crimes with multiple sites raided that spanned across California, Nevada, and Texas.
Investigators say the probe was launched in December 2016 after a missing person report was filed in Tulare County in Central California.Law enforcers say the operation is a major breakthrough in the battle against the pedophile epidemic in the US and are looking to make a series of arrests based on the intel gathered following the arrests already made.
Sherriff McDonnell described the “child molesting predators” that had “bought children” from this network as “not the traditional John” and said they are “taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable in society”.
Los Angeles Daily News reports: The missing girl was a teenager, and her disappearance and discovery in January in a Hollywood apartment unit led detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to a massive human sex trafficking ring that ran across California and into Nevada.
Investigators found apartment units were being rented and used as brothels in more than a dozen communities, including in Chatsworth, Burbank, Hollywood and Las Vegas.
“Years ago, a human trafficking case of this magnitude was not likely,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a news conference in downtown. “We knew the more we looked, the more we would find.”
The six-month investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, and the California Department of Justice, has led to two arrests so far.
Quinton Brown, 30, of Highland, and Gerald Turner, 32, of Fresno, were arrested on suspicion of 54 charges relating to sex trafficking, pimping, pandering, grand theft and identity theft.
The complaint, filed Wednesday by the California Attorney General’s office, alleges that Brown lured victims from the Central Valley as far back as in October and trafficked them throughout the state. Investigators also said:
• The 13 victims include eight minors who were sold for commercial sex.
• A 2017 Maserati Ghibli, a 2017 Maserati Levante, and a 2016 Porsche Panamera, all confiscated by investigators, were used in the ring and obtained through fraudulent means.• Eight people were victims of identity theft.
• 16 sites across California and in Nevada were used as brothels as part of the ring.
Investigators are still looking for Mia McNeil, 32, of Los Angeles, who they believe is the one who rented the locations to be used as brothels, McDonnell said.
She also leased high-end vehicles to transport the girls and young women. Investigators are asking the public’s help for information leading to her location, McDonnell added.
He said investigators learned that Brown and Turner “would traffic the victims in plain sight,” using the Internet to post photos to announce that they were for sale.
“They are as young as 15 years old, bought and sold for commercial sex,” McDonnell added.California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at the news conference such sex trafficking cases mostly involve victims born and raised in the United States.
He said 72 percent of the victims found in California say they are American.
“Human trafficking, which includes sex and labor trafficking, is one of the fasting growing crimes in the world. Its reach is not limited to foreign countries,” Becerra said. “In California, human trafficking is reported here in our state more than in any other.”
Investigators said the case is ongoing, including finding those who solicited the teens and young women.”The predators online that are looking for an 11-year-old … these people are not the traditional Johns that most people think of.” McDonnell said.
“These are predators. These are child molesters that are out there taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable in society.”Since the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force was established in 2015, there have been 697 arrests, and of those, about 30 percent were male buyers.
In addition, there have been 185 victims rescued, a majority of them youths who were sex trafficked. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he has since met with one of the victims rescued, and she has received help and is back in school.
But he implored parents to watch their children carefully, especially while they are on their mobile phones.”To the parents, be vigilant,” he said into news cameras at the press conference.”Pay attention to what your children are doing online. Social networking is an environment for predators to prey on and exploit the innocence of our children.”