A statewide effort to interrupt the sex trafficking rings operating in California led to the arrest of hundreds of individuals, including 31 people in Stanislaus County.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild was carried out over Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 as part of the kickoff for human trafficking awareness month in February.
The Department of Justice’s criminal code defines human trafficking as “a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services or commercial sex.” The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and the Reauthorization in 2003 sought to give authorities more options for prosecuting traffickers, including filing charges under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations statute. The act also grants more protections for victims of human trafficking and options to sue their traffickers.
California has one of the highest rates of human trafficking, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. In 2018, 1,656 cases of human trafficking were reported in California. Of those cases, 1,226 were sex trafficking cases, 151 were labor trafficking cases, 110 involved both labor and sex trafficking, and in 169 cases the type of trafficking was not specified.
The two-day operation saw law enforcement using various apps to make contact with the clients and/or the prostitutes.
“It’s no longer the days of them standing out on a street corner,” said Patterson Police Chief Marc Nino, who spearheaded the local operation. “Now days, it’s done on social media.”
The statewide effort included 70 different law enforcement agencies. Operation Reclaim and Rebuild focused on rescuing victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking, providing victims with much-needed services, identifying and arresting their captors, seeking successful prosecutions, and disrupting the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers.
Victims encountered during enforcement efforts were cared for by personnel from victim service providers. Locally, the individuals that opted to take the help were taken to the Haven Women’s Center.
Operation Reclaim and Rebuild was successful in its endeavor with 76 adult and 11 minor victims being recovered; 266 males arrested for the charge of solicitation; and 27 suspected traffickers and exploiters were arrested. In total, 518 arrests were made. In Stanislaus County the 31 arrests included charges of solicitation, prostitution, pimping and various violations for registered sex offenders, including: Salomon Albizo, Lashontiana Andy, Jose Bueno-Serna, Luis Cardoso, Valerie Cauthon, Sabrina Celaya, Donald Davis, Farrel Engelbert-Pauly, Christina Ernst, Dennis Folliott, Robert Goodman, Jorge Guerra-Ibarra, Tracie Kutzman, Kishaun Lewis, Candice Lozano, Keith Maddox, Nicole McGuire, Jose Moreno, Forrest Pratt, Omar Rangel, Jose Rosales, Enrique Saenz-Reyes, Robert Sermeno, Bunreth Sok, Laurie Steeley, Ana Tovar-Lagunas, Anthony Valenzuela, Deshawn Wash, Tyler Weller, Jessica Wilson and Christopher Yanez.