A preliminary hearing for the Stockton man accused of sex trafficking a minor in Turlock has been set for Thursday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Michael Odis Johnson III, 19, is facing felony charges of human trafficking of a minor, pandering, and pandering of a minor. The charges against him stem from allegations that Johnson forced a 16-year-old Ceres girl to have sex with multiple men over a two-day stay at the Travelodge on W. Glenwood Avenue in Turlock, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
The girl reported the events to the Turlock Police Department the day she was able to leave the motel on Jan. 26, 2016. An arrest warrant was issued for Johnson in October 2016 and he was taken into custody earlier this month in French Camp and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on Monday.
The 16-year-old girl first met Johnson through Instagram and the two stayed in regular contact through the app, along with Snapchat and Kik Messenger. In one conversation Johnson asked the girl if she wanted to make some money. She told the police she thought he wanted her to sell drugs and she said no. On another occasion Johnson allegedly asked her if she wanted to make money by posting as an escort on Backpage.com and having sex with men for money. The girl again told Johnson she was not interested, according to the affidavit.
The two continued to communicate with each other and agreed that Johnson would come on Jan. 19, 2016 and pick her up from Ceres High School. Johnson arrived with a woman he said was his sister and called her Cecee. They took the 16-year-old to Stockton where she said they smoked marijuana. The girl told Turlock Police Detective Jason Tosta, who was assigned the case, that she heard them talking about putting an escort ad on Backpage.com, but thought they were talking about Cecee because she was a prostitute. In reality the ad that was posted using a picture of the 16-year-old, Tosta stated in the affidavit.
On Jan. 24, 2016, the girl and her mother got into an argument and the girl called Johnson for help. The girl told the investigator she wanted to make money to help her mother leave an abusive relationship.
Johnson and two unknown men picked up the 16-year-old girl in Ceres on Jan. 24, 2016 and took her to the Travelodge in Turlock. The girl said she agreed to Johnson’s plan to post an escort ad on Backpage.com and have sex with men for money.
According to the affidavit Johnson posted the ad and listed his cell phone number. It wasn’t long before men began texting Johnson and arranged times to come to the motel. The girl said Johnson told her what to say to the men and to ask them for a “donation.” She also said Johnson placed a box of condoms in the room and told her to make sure she got the money before having sex with the men.
The girl said the first man paid her $100 for sexual intercourse and oral sex. After the man left Johnson came in and took the money, Tosta stated in the affidavit.
The girl told the investigator she no longer wanted to continue after the first man and wanted to leave the motel, but that she was too scared of Johnson to do or say anything.
Over the next two days eight to 10 men came to the Turlock location and had sex with the teenager. She claimed that Johnson collected $800 total and gave her $50.
The girl stated she was not allowed to leave the room and was threatened with physical harm if she tried. She wasn’t given any food and the only thing to drink was the tap water from the bathroom sink.
On Jan. 25, 2016, Cecee came to the room and told the girl to not ask for money, but instead to just hold out her hand.
Cecee and Johnson also allegedly talked about posting another ad for the 16-year-old girl.
On Jan. 26, 2016, the girl accompanied by Cecee and Johnson left the motel and she was dropped off near her Ceres home. She told her mother about the events that had happened over the last two days and her mother took her to the Turlock Police Department.
The mother was able to find the Backpage.com ad that featured a nude picture of her daughter. She also found an ad for Cecee.
Tosta was able to get a search warrant for the phone records of Johnson and the woman identified as Cecee in the advertisement. A search warrant also was obtained for the Instagram and Snapchat accounts associated with Johnson under the usernames “Pimpingainteasy” and “Ssmokesalot.” Both accounts had phone numbers that led back to Johnson.
During the course of the investigation Tosta was contacted by Johnson who wanted to know why a search warrant had been obtained for his phone. Tosta told Johnson it was in relation to sex trafficking on Backpage.com. Johnson claimed it was not him and that he was a college student out of state. Later in the conversation Johnson said he was a student at Delta College in Stockton.
During the conversation, which Tosta recorded, Johnson said he had not been in Turlock in January, then when told there was video surveillance of him at the motel and at a neighboring gas station, Johnson admitted he was there and said it was because he liked to travel and knew a lot of people in Turlock. Later when asked if anyone came to the motel, Johnson said he didn’t know anyone in Turlock.
The affidavit states Johnson was told the Backpage.com advertisement was linked to an IP address on his phone. He said he set it up for Cecee because she didn’t know how to do it. Johnson also was confronted with the news that the investigation had revealed the incoming and outgoing text messages he traded with the men on his cell phone.
At one point in the conversation, Johnson changed his story from not knowing the victim to it being her idea and that he never took any money from her. He also said he only knew the girl through a friend, who also was at the motel. He promised the detective he would get his friend’s telephone number and call him back with it, but never did call again.
Johnson remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail in lieu of a $1 million bail. A bail review hearing is set for Tuesday.
The investigation into the case remains ongoing and additional arrests are possible, according to the police department.