Two men, including one from Fresno, were arrested in connection with a sex trafficking ring that exploited a dozen Central Valley girls and young women for more than a year, according to a 54-count state Attorney General’s Office complaint filed Wednesday in Tulare County Superior Court.
In a news briefing in Los Angeles on Thursday, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the ring was also involved in identity theft for the purpose of renting motel rooms and leasing apartments and three luxury cars, two Maseratis and a Porsche. Some of the exploited girls were younger than 18.
McDonnell said the case was triggered about seven months ago when girls from Tulare County were discovered in a West Hollywood hotel room used for prostitution.
“That connection to Central California linked our detectives with investigators from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office,” McDonnell said. “That partnership yielded the identification of other sex trafficking victims.”
Gerald Lavall Turner, 32, of Fresno, and Quinton Brown, 30, of Highland in San Bernardino County, are both in Tulare County Jail. Turner was booked Tuesday on suspicion of enticing under-aged girls for prostitution. His bail is $630,000, according to Tulare County Jail records. Brown was booked into Tulare County Jail on numerous human trafficking charges. His bail is $2.1 million, jail records say.
A woman who oversaw rental and leasing of homes, apartments, hotel rooms and cars and is charged with identity theft is also wanted in the case. Mia Maree McNeil, 32, of Los Angeles is wanted on 12 felony counts, including identity theft and other theft-related charges related to the human trafficking ring. She rented sites in Chatsworth, West Hollywood and Bakersfield where prostitution would occur, said McDonnell.
McNeil used fraudulent credit cards that stole the identities of victims from eight states to lease cars and prostitution locations, McDonnell said.
The youngest of the exploited girls was 15 and eight were younger than 18. Seven were from Tulare County, three from Kern County, two from Fresno County and one from Los Angeles County. Brown faces 38 counts of human trafficking or prostitution charges, as well as three theft-related counts, while six counts of human trafficking and prostitution counts were filed against Turner. All three suspects have previous felony records and previous state prison stints, the state complaint said.
The sex crimes occurred between March 2016 and April 2017, the Attorney General’s complaint said. The case reached from Los Angeles County north through the San Joaquin Valley to the Bay Area and east to Las Vegas.
“It’s shocking to the senses, it’s shocking to me and it’s shocking to my staff, and I hope that it’s shocking to those who are hearing this story,” said Boudreaux.
He credited the vigilance of law enforcement and the aggressive efforts to seek out predators.
It’s shocking to the senses, it’s shocking to me and it’s shocking to my staff and I hope that it’s shocking to those who are hearing this story.
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux
Boudreaux said he was encouraged recently after speaking with one of the victims, who has received counseling and returned to school. He said Tulare County is employing a multi-pronged effort to work with the victims, many of whom became drug addicted while they were trafficked.
“This young lady went to counseling, she has gone through rehab,” he said. “Sitting with her recently, she is not the same person; she’s healthy, she looks healthy, her family is reunited and their family unit is strong again.”
Boudreaux issued a warning to parents to become vigilant and pay attention to what their children are doing online.
“Ask those very difficult questions ‘who are you speaking with, who are you talking to,’ be that protective parent,” he said. “Social networking is an environment for predators to prey upon and exploit the innocence of our children.”