Three suspects are collectively facing more than four dozen felony charges in connection with an alleged sex-trafficking ring that stretched across the state and into Las Vegas, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
Quinton Brown, 30, Gerald Turner, 32, and Mia McNeil, 32, were charged following a six-month investigation that involved officials from Los Angeles and Tulare counties, along with the state Department of Justice. Brown and Turner are in custody, but McNeil remains at large.
"Law enforcement agents throughout the state work tirelessly every day to ensure that Californians are safe from exploitation and do not become victims of human trafficking," state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
"These charges stem from the hard work of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force and the California Department of Justice attorneys and special agents.
"I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their efforts over the course of this six-month investigation to bring these defendants to justice," he said.
Authorities said there were 13 victims of the sex-trafficking ring. Eight of them were juveniles ranging in age from 15 to 17. The others were 18 to 21 years old.
According to the Attorney General's Office, Brown lured victims from the Central Valley and trafficked them throughout the state, primarily in the Central Valley, Bay Area and Los Angeles County, as well as in Las Vegas.
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Brown is facing 41 criminal counts, while Turner was hit with six counts and McNeil with 12.
Officials said the suspects often used social media to contact victims and lure them away from their homes.
"Be vigilant. Pay attention to what your children are doing online. Ask those very difficult questions," Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the suspects were also involved in identify theft and used the money they made from it to rent apartments and expensive cars to house and transport the victims.
"The johns or so-called customers came from all walks of life, as they
often do in these cases," McDonnell said. "People who are out there, they think of this as prostitution, they think of this as a victimless crime. This is far from a victimless crime. These are the most vulnerable victims. These are our kids."
McDonnell said the investigation began in January when deputies from the West Hollywood station responded to a call about a missing girl from Tulare County who might be in a West Hollywood apartment. Deputies found the missing girl, but also discovered a female adult and another adult who was on parole, and the call led to the discovery of the alleged sex trafficking operation, McDonnell said.