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2 accused of holding woman against her will at Ventura hotel

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

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

Two suspects were arrested at a Ventura hotel after a woman claimed she was forced into prostitution and held against her will.

Ventura police arrested Demarea Williams, 23, and Monay Lewis, 21, after officers responded to a call at about 1 a.m. Tuesday of a possible female victim being held against her will at La Quinta Inn in the 5800 block of Valentine Road, authorities said.

When authorities arrived at the hotel parking lot, they found a female matching the victim’s description inside a car. Williams was standing outside the vehicle, Sgt. Gerald Foreman said.

According to authorities, the 21-year-old woman was being forced to have sex with various men for money, and the proceeds allegedly went to Williams. Investigators allege the woman had been “trafficked up and down the coast” of California as well as in Arizona and Texas. (Read full article here)

California decriminalizes prostitution for minors after Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills to aid trafficking victims

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Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed more than half a dozen bills that decriminalize prostitution and increase protections for young trafficking victims in court amid growing efforts in California to help children and young adults swept into the trade of forced sex and labor.

Among the bills passed were laws that would prohibit the disclosure of victims’ personal information, provide victims’ services to trafficking witnesses and allow minors under age 16 to testify through closed-circuit televisions in certain cases.

But also approved were hotly contested bills that would decriminalize prostitution and allow human trafficking victims to vacate prior convictions and seal their records.

Senate Bill 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also allows law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody — only if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety. (Read full article here)

Long Beach man sentenced to over 20 years for human trafficking

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that Andrew Jordan, 37, was sentenced to 21 years, 4 months in prison in Los Angeles County Superior Court after being found guilty on felony charges, including human trafficking, pimping, pandering, domestic violence, and assault.

“Human trafficking is a heinous crime where perpetrators profit from the trading and selling of human beings. Today’s sentence sends a clear signal that this form of modern-day slavery will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Harris. “I want to thank the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Simi Valley Police Department, the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office and the lawyers and Special Agents of our own California Department of Justice for their continued efforts to work collaboratively to hold human traffickers accountable and secure justice for the survivors.”

The guilty verdict follows a joint investigation by the Long Beach Police Department’s Vice Investigations and Gang Enforcement Sections, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Custody Investigative Services, Operation Safe Jails, the Simi Valley Police Department, and the Los Angeles Human Exploitation and Trafficking Task Force, who helped identify human trafficking victims who were exploited by Jordan, leading to Jordan’s September 2015 arrest. Jordan has been in custody since his arrest. (Read full article here)

Camarillo couple arrested for human trafficking

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CAMARILLO, Calif. – A couple is behind bars for allegedly prostituting a 15-year-old teenage girl. It’s unclear if the girl is related to the couple.

Jessica Lynn Stanley, 26, of Simi Valley and Robert Ryan McGraa, 35, or Thousand Oaks, had been staying at a Camarillo motel in the 1600 block of E. Daily Drive when the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office received a tip of the alleged human trafficking.

Investigators say Stanley had posted several escort advertisements under an alias on various websites, such as Backpage.com. During an undercover operation, Stanley allegedly arranged a meeting between the undercover detective and the 15-year-old teen for sex. (Read full article here)

Five arrested after months-long investigation into human trafficking ring

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A human trafficking ring that forced at least 25 Chinese women into prostitution in motels across Southern California, where they earned millions of dollars for their alleged captors, was busted this month and five people were arrested, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Authorities said they launched a six-month investigation into the network after deputies discovered a potential victim of human trafficking during a prostitution sting at the Comfort Inn in Camarillo. Authorities uncovered evidence at the motel of a larger group operating across the region, Undersheriff Gary Pentis said at a news conference in Thousand Oaks.

“Commercial sex is nothing short of modern-day slavery,” Pentis said, adding that such operations are pervasive. “This is a hideous crime that has an impact on all of us.”

The illicit operation was run much like a corporation, officials said, and the victims took in about $350,000 a month for the organizers.

The alleged ringleader, identified as Hsin Chieh “Jerry” Wang, worked as the network’s dispatcher and took calls from hundreds of men each month who answered sexually explicit ads on backpage.com, Pentis said.

Another suspect … (Read full article here)

Ads to warn of ‘Ugly Truth’ of human trafficking

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County officials announced on Monday the launch of a campaign intended to educate the public about sex trafficking and child exploitation.

Dubbed “The Ugly Truth,” the campaign will use billboards, radio spots, videos played in elevators and at health clubs and posters displayed at bus shelters and on trolleys. It’s expected to run about three months.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan said at a Monday morning news conference that law enforcement authorities see a “disconnect” between what they know about sex trafficking and the community’s attitudes toward it. Some of that, she said, may be attributed to movies and television shows that glamorize the sex trade.

Stephan said the campaign grew out of a belief that members of the public would be more willing to work against human trafficking in their own communities if they had a better understanding of the conditions that drive children and adults into the sex trade (Read full article here)