Men Plead Not Guilty in Pot Farm Sex Slave Case

Two men were arrested in connection with keeping a girl as a sex slave at a Northern California pot farm

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 25, both allegedly had sex with a girl who was cutting marijuana buds for them at Balletto's Lake County property.

    Two men have pleaded not guilty to charges in connection with the sexual abuse of a 15-year-girl on a Northern California pot farm.

    Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 25, entered their pleas Friday in federal court in San Francisco. They are charged with growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants on a remote Lake County farm.

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    Both men are also charged with coercing a 15-year-old runaway to help cut marijuana buds at the pot farm and having sex with her, authorities allege.

    They are accused of keeping her captive in an metal box pierced with airholes and forcing her to work on the farm.

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    Court documents filed in the case say prosecutors obtained a recorded confession from Balletto, according to the Associated Press, citing court documents.

    Balletto's attorney, Jodi Linker of the Office of the Federal Public Defender, wouldn't comment after Friday's hearing. Pearmain's lawyer, Robert Waggener, also declined comment.

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    Authorities in Lake County learned about the case when the Los Angeles Police Department advised that Balletto might have kidnapped the girl.

    Deputies visited Balletto's home on April 29 to ask about the missing girl. She called authorities the next day to say she was OK and in Sacramento. LAPD investigators traced the call and police located the girl at a West Sacramento hotel, where authorities arrested Pearmain, a federal complaint said.

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    Officers then found "equipment consistent with sexual bondage and sadomasochism" and a towel with blood stains at Balletto's pot farm. The equipment included a rack "presumably used to attach a human to the device and immobilize them."

    The girl told investigators she was locked in a 4-by-2-by-2-foot box. Holes had been drilled in the box, and water was run through it to wash her without letting her out, the complaint said.

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    Investigators found human hair inside the box, where prosecutors said the girl was imprisoned "on multiple occasions, for days."

    Hundreds of marijuana plants and several firearms, including AR-15-style assault rifles and body armor were found as part of the investigation.

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    Prosecutors described Balletto as an ex-Marine who was "prepared to engage in an extended gun battle," prosecutors wrote.

    Both men have been charged with marijuana-cultivation and a count of coercing a minor to help with their alleged operation.

    In addition, Balletto is charged with possessing several firearms "in furtherance of a drug crime," according to the federal indictment.

    Prosecutors argued in Wednesday's filing that both men should be denied bail if they make a request for release before trial. Neither man has requested bail and both men are scheduled to return to court Aug. 21.

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