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Almost 500 People Busted In California During Pre-Super Bowl Human Trafficking Sting Operation

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Published on: February 21, 2022

Just a week before the #SuperbOwl,” yes I did that on purpose, nearly 500 people were arrested in California in a human trafficking sting operation.

The LA Times reported, “Authorities on Tuesday announced the results of a statewide crackdown on human trafficking that resulted in nearly 500 arrests and more than 80 sex workers being helped.”

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department provides the details.

The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) in partnership with the La Quinta Special Enforcement Team, Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, Lake Elsinore Special Enforcement Team, Temecula Metro Team, Riverside County Gang Task Force Region 6, Riverside Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations effected thirty eight arrests during a nearly week-long proactive enforcement operation that targeted online prostitution and those whose demand for these unlawful activities fuels an illicit underground economy, both locally as well as across the State of California. Riverside County’s role in this operation, dubbed Operation Reclaim & Rebuild, ran four consecutive days before concluding on February 10, 2022. Operation Reclaim & Rebuild is an annual multi-agency statewide initiative that focuses on rescuing victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking, identifying and arresting their captors, and disrupting demand for these vulnerable victims. Operation Reclaim & Rebuild is timed to coincide with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and serves as a reminder that human trafficking will not be tolerated in California.

Last year’s “Operation Reclaim & Rebuild” included participation from over 100 law enforcement agencies statewide and resulted in total 450 arrest, and 39 victims rescued, including 13 children.

For this year’s operation, RCAHT task force officers and our allied Riverside County law enforcement partners held operations in the cities of Lake Elsinore, La Quinta, Riverside, Palm Desert, San Jacinto and Temecula. Over the span of four consecutive days, the task force arrested 31 males and 7 females for solicitation of prostitution to include 4 adult victims rescued.p>

Task force officers also made contact with two adult females believed to be victims of sex trafficking. Initial investigations led the task force to believe these subjects were being forced to engage in acts of prostitution against their will. The identity of these victims will not be released pursuant to state confidentiality laws. The victims were referred to victim services for assistance as the investigation into their sex trafficking continues.

Task force officers placed decoy advertisements on popular classified advertisement websites commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution. These officers then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements. Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location. Concurrently, other task force officers negotiated agreed upon acts of prostitution based upon other escort advertisements that were posted online in the area. In these instances, females who responded to the undercover officers posing as customers were directed to meet. After their arrival and an interview, if the females were determined not to be victims of human trafficking, they too were arrested.

Not Just Epstein: Operation Broken Heart Nabs 1,700 People Arrested In Nationwide Human Trafficking Bust

Arrested during the operation for solicitation of prostitution and carry a loaded firearm:

  • Austin Spargo, 25 of Murrieta

Arrested during the operation for solicitation for prostitution, possession of a controlled substance and paraphernalia:

  • Juan Lopez, 25 of Perris

Arrested during the operation for solicitation of prostitution were:

  • Adrian Duro, 21 of Thermal
  • Antonio Adan Torres Molina, 29 of Indio
  • Courtney Burge, 44 of Lake Elsinore
  • Desiree Green, 27 of Hemet
  • Domitri Jones, 47 of Moreno Valley
  • Donneshia Chapple, 25 of Hemet
  • Duwayne Speas, 30 of Murrieta
  • Esteban Bernabe, 41 of Riverside
  • Christine Weigert, 25 of El Cajon
  • Christopher Shick, 30 of Hemet
  • Eddie Williams, 44 of Desert Hot Springs
  • Gary Koenig, 53 of Hemet
  • Giovani Pedro, 25 of Lake Elsinore
  • Jasmine Washington, 24 of Moreno Valley
  • Jerry Bejar, 29 of Long Beach
  • Jin Park, 21 of Eastvale
  • Jordan Saunders, 26 of San Jacinto
  • Jorge Paniagua, 21 of Hemet
  • Joseph Moskowitz, 29 of Hemet
  • Joshua Baker, 32 of Riverside
  • Justin Michael Steubs, 43 of Thousand Palms
  • Keith Docs, 46 of Vista
  • Keith Terranova, 42 of La Quinta
  • Kelli Roma, 40 of Cathedral City
  • Lorraine Cuevas, 31 of Moreno Valley (Not Pictured)
  • Marquez Arnold, 23 of Lake Elsinore
  • Michael Wilkins, 50 of Temecula
  • Nicole Sawdey, 38 of Indio
  • Nolan Padua, 35 of Murrieta
  • Richard Laryea, 27 of Sun City
  • Renee Barrera, 27 of San Jacinto
  • Roger Henri Lavigne, 71 of Indio
  • Stewart Smith, 33 of Menifee
  • Uchechi Lever, 24 of Beaumont
  • Wayne Hawkins, 60 of Lake Elsinore
  • Zaldana Parada, 48 of Moreno Valley

Subjects arrested during this operation were transported to the detention center in closest proximity to the operational area(s) each day. During this multi-day operation, bookings occurred at the John B. Benoit Detention Center in Indio, Cois M. Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta, and the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. Following booking, each arrestee was ultimately released upon their written promise to later appear in court.

Of course, the Super Bowl has been known to be a hotbed of human trafficking.  The Mercury News reported:

The Super Bowl has long been believed to attract human traffickers from beyond the host city’s borders. But Villanueva said the overall number of cases uncovered by the recent operation was about the same as what might be found in the state during any given week.

The days leading up to the big game typically come with a tremendous presence of local and federal law enforcement, including task forces specifically searching for cases of sex trafficking. That’s coupled with outreach from advocacy groups.

“I can tell you, from an agency that’s on the ground, embedded with advocates and survivors that … we have seen repeatedly, over and over again, an uptick (in human trafficking) and our services required,” said Alan Smyth, CEO of the advocacy group Saving Innocence.

Smyth said his organization also saw an uptick of “crisis calls” in Los Angeles when the Dodgers faced off against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2020 World Series. There’s “absolutely” an increase in children and adults trafficked in the days leading up to big sporting events, he said.

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