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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)

 

Bill would add hotels, motels to human trafficking fight

A new Senate bill looks to address human trafficking where the crimes often occur: hotels and motels.

Senate Bill 225, introduced earlier this month by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, would add hotels and motels to the list of businesses that are required to post signs with hotline numbers people can call or text if they suspect human trafficking or need assistance.

Human trafficking involves not only forced prostitution but also forced labor.

Such signs are already required at certain locations, including massage parlors, urgent care facilities, truck stops, bus and rail stations, and adult and sexually-oriented businesses.

Stern said including hotels and motels on that list would “plug a loophole” that’s existed for too long.

“We’ve seen the effectiveness of the hotline as a tool to shine the light on this pox in our society,” Stern said. “What we found is hotels and motels tend to be a major target for perpetrating these crimes of human trafficking. There are all kinds of activities that go on and people don’t say anything, so what we want to do is arm the employees and customers with information so if they see something, they know who to call.”

The hotline numbers are available 24 hours, seven days a week and are accessible in over 160 languages. Callers can leave messages anonymously. If the bill is passed, hotels and motels that do not comply will be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.

Stern’s bill taps into the larger problem of tracking illegal activities at private businesses. According to a 2012 study released by the California Department of Justice, human trafficking “can be facilitated by businesses that promote the crime or accept bribes to remain silent.”

According to the study, from Jan. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2012, the California Department of Justice made 441 arrests and 113 convictions for human trafficking in Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Clara counties.

Those numbers do not include alternative penal code sections prosecutors use to charge suspects connected to human trafficking. Prosecutors also use pimping and pandering laws, which require proof of fewer legal elements than human trafficking, making the likelihood of conviction greater, according to the study.

In Ventura County, the District Attorney’s Office filed 12 pimping cases from 2012 to 2016. The office filed two cases of human trafficking last year and one in 2015.

In some of those cases, arrests were made after months of investigating human trafficking suspects operating out of hotels and motels. (Read full article here)

Ex-probation officer sentenced for child porn

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(Photo: Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

A former Ventura County probation officer was sentenced Friday to a year in jail and five years of probation involving child pornography charges.

James Richard Schmitt, 54, pleaded guilty in December to two felony charges of possession of child pornography and was sentenced in Ventura County Superior Court.

Schmitt, who was working as a senior deputy probation officer, was arrested after a joint investigation by the FBI and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation found that the Oxnard man had been using an online service that provided content involving sexually exploited children.

According to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, Yahoo in 2014 found certain account holders based in the Philippines were using its service to traffic child pornography. Yahoo tracked the seller accounts to buyer accounts all around the world, prosecutors said. (Read full article here)

Man gets five years for human trafficking

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(Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

A Fresno man was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison for human trafficking, officials said.

Demarea Williams, 23, pleaded guilty Jan. 4 in Ventura County Superior Court to a felony charge of human trafficking, authorities said. ​

Williams was arrested by Ventura police on Dec. 20 after they received reports of a woman possibly being held against her will and forced to engage in prostitution, authorities said.

Police found the 21-year-old woman at La Quinta Inn in the 5800 block of Valentine Road, authorities said. Williams and a woman were arrested at the scene, authorities reported.

Investigators alleged the 21-year-old victim had been trafficked in California, Texas and Arizona. (Read article here)

3 ARRESTED IN SEX PREDATOR STING OPERATION IN VENTURA AFTER DETECTIVES POSE AS TEENS IN ONLINE CHAT ROOMS

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From left: Jose Juan Ramualdo-Posadas, Christopher Allen Bouchard and Reynal Reginio Guillen are seen in booking photos after being arrested in a sexual predator sting operation. (Ventura Police Department)

Three alleged sexual predators have been arrested in Ventura after detectives posed as teenage girls in internet chat rooms, authorities announced Tuesday.

Christopher Allen Bouchard, 48, of La Crescenta, Reynal Reginio Guillen, 54, of Sherman Oaks, and Jose Juan Ramualdo-Posadas, 32, of Corona, were taken into custody without incident Friday after engaging in online conversations with investigators and arriving at an agreed-upon location, police said.

The multi-agency sting was conducted by personnel from the Ventura Police Department, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and Human Traffic Enforcement Team, according to a news release.

Detectives, posing as 14- and 15-year-old girls, entered various chat rooms “primarily designed for teens,” the statement said.

“As the investigation unfolded, adult male sexual predators got onto the same chat room and contacted the undercover officer,” the news release said. “Each of the suspects engaged (the officer) in sexually explicit conversation, describing in detail what sex acts they wanted to perform with the teenage girl.”

According to authorities, each suspect agreed to meet and pick up the girl at or near what they believed was the teen’s home in the 2100 block of Victoria Avenue. (Read full article here)

‘Mastermind’ of prostitution ring pleads guilty

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The “mastermind” of a multimillion-dollar prostitution ring who trafficked dozens of female Chinese nationals and used the online classified-ad portal Backpage.com pleaded guilty Thursday.

Hsin Chieh “Jerry” Wang, 40, of Los Angeles, appeared before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young for an early disposition conference when he decided to plead guilty to 11 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime of human trafficking, pimping and money laundering.

Wang, who was initially facing 28 criminal counts, will be sentenced to 13 years when he appears in court Feb. 16, Senior Deputy District Attorney Melissa Suttner said. The remaining counts will be dropped at the sentencing.

Wang and four others were arrested Aug. 4 after a six-month investigation into an operation that forced 28 Chinese women into a prostitution ring at various motels throughout the state, including the Comfort Inn in Camarillo.

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 advertisement 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)

Two charged with pimping a minor in Ventura

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(Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

Asia Jones, 18, of Riverside County (Photo: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE)

Two people were charged with felony offenses Friday related to their alleged involvement in the human sex trafficking of a minor in Ventura, officials said.

Asia Jones, 18, of Riverside County, and Arkansas native Percy Stanley, 27, were charged with felony causing a minor to engage in a commercial sex act and pimping a minor, according to Ventura County Superior Court records.

The pair was arrested by Ventura police on Wednesday after a witness reported at about 2:15 p.m. that the minor and a man were having sex in a neighbor’s side yard, police said. Stanley was also arrested on a felony warrant for human trafficking of a minor in a San Bernardino County case, police said.

The victim was identified as a 16-year-old girl missing out of Riverside County, police said. Ventura police Sgt. Jerry Foreman said he did not know how long the girl had been missing. (Read full article here)

Woman sentenced in prostitution ring case

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A Covina woman charged in connection with a human trafficking ring that operated in Ventura County and other areas throughout California was sentenced Tuesday.

Yiwen Wang, 43, appeared before Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young. Wang had pleaded guilty Dec. 6 to three counts of felony money laundering and one count of tax evasion.

Authorities arrested Wang, her brother Hsin Chieh “Jerry” Wang, 40, and three others on Aug. 4 after a six-month investigation into an operation that allegedly forced 28 Chinese women into a prostitution ring at various motels throughout the state that included the Comfort Inn in Camarillo.

Yiwen Wang was facing a maximum sentence of nine years in county jail for various charges but was instead sentenced to three years and four months because of her plea, Senior Deputy District Attorney Melissa Suttner said.

The defendant also was ordered to pay the California Franchise Tax Board $95,833 for filing a false tax return, Suttner said. (Read full article here)