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Fresno gang member was a drug dealer, pimp. Now he faces possibility of life in prison

This is how Fresno police get trafficking victims off the streets

Sgt. Curt Chastain and detectives from the Fresno Police Department execute an undercover operation to get a young human trafficking victim off the streets. Chastain explains how the department's philosophy has changed since he began his career.
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Sgt. Curt Chastain and detectives from the Fresno Police Department execute an undercover operation to get a young human trafficking victim off the streets. Chastain explains how the department's philosophy has changed since he began his career.

A Fresno gang member who was a pimp and drug dealer was convicted Thursday by a federal jury on six counts of drug and sex trafficking offenses.

Filiberto “Beto” Chavez, 37, faces the possibility of a life in prison after was he found guilty for conspiracy, distributing methamphetamine, possessing methamphetamine and traveling to facilitate prostitution following a joint investigation between the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Fresno District Attorney’s Office and Fresno Police Department.

On July 8, 2017, Chavez sold meth to Robert Lockhart, a convicted codefendant.

Another codefendant, Amina Padilla, stored meth for Chavez and gave a portion of it to another codefendant, Carlos Melgar, to deliver to Lockhart.

Three days later, investigators served search warrants at Padilla’s and Lockhart’s apartments and seized meth from both.

In June and July of that year, Padilla helped Chavez pimp out a victim using Internet ads.

Chavez asked other codefendants Carlos Montano and Miguel Murillo to bring sex trafficking victims with them and travel together to New York, where Chavez and the other men intended to traffic the victims for sex work.

On July 2, 2017, Chavez flew with the victim he pimped out from California to New York. Later that month, the other codefendants met him there.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said Chavez’s conviction was the result of law enforcement collaboration.

“We will continue to work tirelessly together to protect our communities and to hold accountable those who threaten our safety,” he said in a news release.

Both Police Chief Jerry Dyer and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp praised the conviction.

Chavez will be sentenced in federal court on Aug. 5. He could face a maximum sentence of a lifetime in prison, plus a fine of more than $30 million.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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