In late 2016, the Tulare County Sheriff’s office received a report about a missing teenager. The rescue of this 15-year-old girl from an apartment in West Hollywood led to the launch of a fully-fledged investigation, ultimately leading to police busting the largest sex trafficking ring on the West Coast.
Faith It reported that, while 13 young girls and women were recently rescued from the sex trafficking ring, investigators warn that their ongoing investigation in California proves that sex trafficking is much closer to home than anyone likes to think about.
Investigators found apartment units in more than a dozen communities that were being rented and used as brothels.
The sex trafficking ring discovered by detectives from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department spanned across parts of California and into Nevada.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said, “Years ago, a human trafficking case of this magnitude was not likely. We knew the more we looked, the more we would find.”
“They are as young as 15-years-old, bought and sold for commercial sex.”
Of the 13 victims rescued, eight were minors who were sold for commercial sex.
Departments involved in the six-month investigation include the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Justice, and the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force. During that time, two arrests have been made: 30-year-old Quinton Brown and 32-year-old Gerald Turner. The two men were arrested in suspicion of 54 charges “relating to sex trafficking, pimping, pandering, grand theft and identity theft.”
According to Sheriff Jim McDonnell, the two men were trafficking victims in plain sight, posting public alerts online that the girls were for sale.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said, “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.”
“In California, human trafficking is reported here in our state more than in any other.”
Detectives are still searching for 32-year-old Mia MacNeill, who they believe is responsible for renting various apartments to be used as brothels. It’s also believe she leased high-end vehicles to Turner and Brown for transporting the girls and young women.
According to officials, online predators “looking for an 11-year-old” are not your “traditional Johns.” They don’t look or operate like pimps on TV shows like Law & Order SVU, and they could be working in your neighborhood.
“These are predators. These are child molesters that are out there taking advantage of some of the most vulnerable in society.”
In 2015, the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force was established. Since then, 697 arrests have been made and 185 victims have been rescued.
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, Tulare County Sheriff, wants parents to be on the lookout. They need to understand that this is happening in their neighborhoods and communities, and they must be educated in order to keep their children safe.
At a press conference he said, “To the parents, be vigilant.”
“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.”
There’s still a lot of work to be done in the fight against modern-day slavery, and officials warn that this discovery just barely scratches the surface.
[Featured Image by Yupa Watchanakit/Shutterstock]