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Dispatcher in human trafficking ring sentenced

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(Photo: PHOTO COURTESY OF VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

A San Gabriel woman who acted as the dispatcher for a prostitution ring that trafficked dozens of female Chinese nationals and used the online classified-ad portal Backpage.com was sentenced to 11 years and four months in state prison.

Defeng Hu, 33, appeared before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young on Wednesday for sentencing. Hu pleaded guilty Jan. 19 to one count of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, four counts of pimping, seven counts of money laundering and one count of filing false income tax.

Hu is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in the case. In February 2016, a Ventura County sheriff’s detective located an advertisement on the Backpage.com advertisement portal under the Ventura County section that was labeled “escorts.” The advertisement included photos of an Asian female “in sexually provocative clothing and poses” offering services in a Camarillo hotel, authorities said.

“Hu would take calls from the ‘Johns’ answering the Backpage ads and depending on where the Johns were calling from, she would then call the woman and tell them to go to the hotel and tell them an individual was coming for a job,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Melissa Suttner.

During a search of Hu’s residence, she tried to flee from law enforcement officers and jumped from a third-story balcony, fracturing her ankle. When she was arrested, detectives found she was carrying $24,000 in cash and various cellphones and ledgers, Suttner said. (Read full article here)

Court appearance scheduled for human trafficking suspects

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Brian Lewis, 21

A court appearance has been scheduled for the three men arrested Saturday on suspicion of human trafficking, according to county records.

Brian Lewis, 21, Dashawn Jackson, 18, and Dameon Howard, 20, all from Fresno, were arrested Saturday on suspicion of causing a minor to engage in a commercial sex act and conspiracy to commit a crime, according to county jail records. Lewis was also arrested on suspicion of carrying a loaded firearm, police said.

The three men will appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in room 14 of the Ventura County Superior Court.

Police were first notified of the crime by the National Human Trafficking Center, who received a hotline call from a 17-year-old victim, authorities said. Police said the victim claimed she had been with the men over three days in San Diego County and “forced to commit acts of prostitution.” Police were then alerted of where the three men were staying and arrived to arrest the suspects. (Read article here)

Dashawn Jackson, 18

Dameon Howard, 20

3 arrested as new human trafficking case emerges in Ventura

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Three Fresno men were arrested Saturday on suspicion of human trafficking in Ventura, authorities said.

Ventura police said they were alerted about 5:30 a.m. to the victim by the National Human Trafficking Center after the 17-year-old female called a hotline and said she was hiding in the area of Valentine Road and Victoria Avenue.

Officers found the victim and took her to the police station, where she told detectives she had been with three men over the past three days in San Diego County and “was forced to commit acts of prostitution,” police said in a news release. The men told her she was not free to leave and threatened her if she did not comply, police said.

The victim gave officers descriptions of the suspects and their vehicle and said they had been staying at La Quinta Inn, 5818 Valentine Road, police said.

Detectives with the agency’s street crimes unit went to the inn and found the vehicle, authorities said. A traffic stop was conducted on it about 10:30 a.m. after the men were seen leaving the room, police said. A loaded firearm was found in a search of the vehicle, police said.

The victim later identified the men from the traffic stop as her captors, and all three were arrested, police said. Brian Lewis, 21, Dashawn Jackson, 18, and Dameon Howard, 20, were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and conspiracy to commit a crime, police said. Lewis also was arrested on suspicion of carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle, authorities said. (Read full article here)

 

Drivers in prostitution ring plead guilty

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Two Los Angeles County men pleaded guilty Tuesday for their roles as drivers in a multi-million dollar prostitution ring linked to the classified advertisement portal Backpage.com and involving dozens of female Chinese nationals.

Juiyin Cui, 63, and Runan Xia, 33, appeared before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Patricia Murphy for a preliminary hearing, but instead both men pleaded guilty.

Cui, of Rosemead, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of pimping, one count of conspiracy to commit a crime and two counts of money laundering. He also admitted to overt acts related to the conspiracy charge. Cui will be sentenced to eight years and eight months when he appears again in court on April 19, Senior Deputy District Attorney Melissa Suttner said.

Xia pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime and also admitted to the overt act related to the charge. Xia, who had a “minor” role in the prostitution operation, will be sentenced April 18, Suttner said.

Cui and Xia are among five individuals who were arrested in August in connection with the prostitution ring that operated in hotels and motels in Los Angeles, Riverside, Tulare and Ventura counties.

According to court records, the prostitution ring was discovered after local sheriff’s detectives found an advertisement in the Ventura County section of Backpage.com. The ad included photos of an Asian female “in sexually provocative clothing and poses” offering services in Camarillo, authorities said. Detectives said the address was that of the Quality Inn & Suites. (Read full article here)

L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force Announce the Arrest & Rescue of Many During ‘Operation Reclaim & Rebuild’

In conjunction with Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced details and results from the third annual ‘Operation Reclaim and Rebuild’ enforcement operation, conducted by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and more than 30 participating federal state and local law enforcement agencies, and task forces from across California.  The three-day, statewide effort aimed at combatting human trafficking took place between Thursday, January 26, and Saturday, January 28, 2017, was conducted in various mediums and met with positive results.

The press conference was held Tuesday, January 31, 2017, at the iconic Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles.  Sheriff McDonnell was joined by District Attorney Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office; Deputy Chief Justin Eisenberg, Chief of Detectives, Los Angeles Police Department; Special Agent In Charge Joseph Macias, Homeland Security Investigations Los Angeles; Executive Director Kay Buck, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST); Human Trafficking Bureau Captain Chris Marks, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; representatives from 15 the 30 participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; and representatives from public and private service providers.

Operation Reclaim and Rebuild focused on rescuing victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking, providing victims with much-needed services, identifying and arresting their captors, seeking successful prosecutions, and disrupting the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers.  Police agencies and other trafficking task forces throughout our state joined in the enforcement operation to send the clear message that California law enforcement shares a unified mandate:   Human trafficking must not be tolerated in our state! (Read full article here)