A Fresno gang member is going to prison for decades for turning a high school-age runaway into a prostitute, a case that landed in court after the girl’s determined family tracked him down and called police.
Alfredo “Blessem” Verde, 22, appeared shocked when his punishment – 23 years and seven months to life in prison on human trafficking charges involving a minor – was announced in Fresno County Superior Court. Prior to his trial in June, he had turned down a plea deal that would have given him six years and eight months in prison.
Judge John Vogt gave Verde the maximum sentence, saying he represented the worst kind of criminal, someone who preys on young girls and turns them into prostitutes for money, and glorifies the life of a pimp in a YouTube music video.
“He has shown a pattern of calculated greed by dehumanizing people,” Vogt said. “And then he glorifies his lifestyle in a music video as a pimp, a human trafficker and enslaver of human beings.”
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He has shown a pattern of calculated greed by dehumanizing people.
Judge John Vogt
In June, a jury convicted Verde of six felony counts of human trafficking of a minor for a sex act involving force, abduction of a minor for the purpose of prostitution, pandering, dissuading a witness and possession of a large capacity magazine.
During the trial, jurors heard several recorded jail telephone calls by Verde that directed other females to contact the victim and “get his money.” The jury also viewed the YouTube video in which Verde, armed with a gun, raps about gang life and turning girls into prostitutes to make money.
After the hearing, prosecutor Miiko Anderson and senior investigator Douglas Bolton of the District Attorney’s Office said Verde’s conviction was the result of a family’s determination to get their relative back from the streets.
In February 2016, the victim, a 17-year-old high school student, ran away from her Fresno home after getting into a fight with a sibling, Anderson said. She turned to Verde, who gave her food and shelter. But after a few weeks, Verde told her it was time for her to work as his prostitute to repay him, Anderson said.
In June, a jury convicted Alfredo Verde of six felony counts, including human trafficking of a minor, pandering and dissuading a witness.
The victim became a prostitute in Fresno, but also worked in Orange County and in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington, Anderson said. She got some of her clients through the internet, the prosecutor said.
After a short time of being a prostitute, the victim tearfully called her parents and said she wanted to return home. But when she tried to do this, Verde threatened to harm her and her family, Anderson said. The victim was forced to return to Verde and resume working for him as a prostitute, the prosecutor said.
In April 2016, a friend saw the victim at a shopping center on Kings Canyon Road in southeast Fresno and told the family. The victim’s older sister drove to a shopping center, confronted Verde and demanded that he let her sister go. Verde punched the victim’s sister several times and left with the victim, Anderson said.
Over the next two months, the victim’s family continued to look for the victim but couldn’t find her. Then in June 2016, the older sister received an anonymous tip on social media about the victim. The tipster said the victim was “drugged and beaten,” Anderson said. The tipster didn’t give the family the address of where the victim was living but gave a description of the home and Verde’s car.
The tipster also gave the family instructions of how to set up a date with the victim on the internet. The family asked a friend to set up a date at a motel, but the victim never showed up, Anderson said.
On June 23, 2016, the family received a tip about the location of Verde’s car. The father found the car and called 911. When Verde took off, the father followed the car while giving a police dispatcher Verde’s route, Anderson said.
Police pulled over Verde near Lowe and Maple avenues in southeast Fresno, court records say. After he was arrested, the victim returned home, Anderson said.
From jail, Verde had a strong hold over the victim because “she was angry and upset” about testifying against him, Anderson said. In turning down the plea deal, Verde likely believed she wouldn’t show up to court. But Bolton made sure that she did.
In announcing the punishment, Vogt said society has frequently downplayed the crime of prostitution by calling it victimless. Human trafficking, however, leaves a lifelong emotional scar on victims and their family, he said.
“It’s cases like this,” Vogt said, “that show why it is not a victimless crime.”