Attorney General, Sheriffs Break Up Major Human Trafficking Case in West Coast

(Photo credit: Keyang Pang)

Sheriff Jim McDonald stood with Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a press conference on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the historic Hall of Justice and announced recent joint efforts made in investigating and prosecuting one of the largest-scale human trafficking cases on the west coast.

The investigation began in December, 2016, with a report taken by deputy personnel in Tulare County for a missing female juvenile.  In January, 2017, the teen girl was reportedly in an apartment in West Hollywood, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel who patrol that jurisdiction were notified.

The young girl was located at the apartment in the company of a female adult and a male adult, who was on parole.  The deputies who responded to the apartment contacted all the parties and recognized signs of human trafficking; they discovered the females were sexually exploited.  The victims were rescued and detectives began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the trafficking of these females for the purposes of commercial sex.

This was the beginning thread which led detectives to unravel a large-scale criminal operation.  In the end, eight female juvenile victims –some as young as 15 years old- and five female adult victims were rescued from being further exploited as commercial sex workers.

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonald. (Photo credit: Keyang Pang)

“Superior police work and persistence led investigators on an intensive, seven-month investigation of a sex trafficking operation.  It encompassed an area stretching from Bakersfield to the San Francisco Bay area, and from the Los Angeles Basin to Las Vegas, Nevada,” said Sheriff Jim McDonnell.  “This is exactly the kind of criminal enterprise which requires the rapid response and expertise of a specialized taskforce, like the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Taskforce.”

Three members of the illicit organization who profited from exploiting juveniles and adults in the illegal sex trade, identity theft and luxury vehicle thefts were identified.  Detectives researched the suspects and worked tirelessly to document how the suspects trafficked their victims in plain sight, using the internet, advertising and posting their victims for sale on select websites.  They learned fraudulent credit applications with information stolen from eight victims across the United States were used to rent apartments throughout California, which housed traffickersand served as brothels.

Sheriff Boudreaux spoke about a meeting with one of the victims and her recovery from the lifestyle forced upon her, “She was able to go to counseling after being ripped out of this environment.  She has gone through rehab, and sitting with her most recently, she’s not the same person.  She’s healthy.  She looks healthy.  Their families are reunited.  Their family unit is strong again.  And that’s only because of the efforts of law enforcement and bringing attention to cases just like this.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (Photo credit: Keyang Pang)

“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,” said Attorney General Becerra. “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.”

As a result of tenacious investigation, Quentin Brown III, 30 years old, of Highland, was arrested on Tuesday, July 18 2017, and was ultimately charged with 41 criminal violations, including Human Trafficking of Minors, Pimping, Pandering, Grand Theft, Identity Theft, and Receiving Stolen Property.  He is being held in a Tulare County jail facility in lieu of $2.1 million bail.

Gerald Lavell Turner, 32 years old, of Fresno, was arrested on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. He was charged with six felony violations, including Human Trafficking of Minors, Pimping and Pandering.  He is being held in a Tulare County jail facility in lieu of $645,000 bail.

The third suspect, Mia Maree McNeill, 32 years old, of Los Angeles, is still outstanding and wanted for 12 felony counts of Grand Theft, Identity Theft and Receiving Stolen Property for her participation in the crime ring.  Detectives ask the public for their assistance in identifying her whereabouts.

If you have information about Mia McNeill, please call the HumanTrafficking Bureau at 323-526-5156.  If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may call “L.A. Crime Stoppers” at 800-222-TIPS (8477), use your smartphone by downloading the “P3 MOBILE APP” on Google play or the App Store, or use the website http://lacrimestoppers.org.

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