Last of 3 sought in Palm Desert child sex trafficking ring arrested
UPDATED 05/07/2016 1:30 p.m.
RIVERSIDE – The last remaining suspect being sought in the kidnapping, sexual exploitation and pimping of a 15-year-old girl from Moreno Valley, identified as Dejuan Darsean Lewis, turned himself in to authorities, Friday, May 6, according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Sergeant John Sawyer.
Lewis was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, where he is being held in Administrative Segregation without bail.
A jail records search revealed Lewis was booked into jail for four felony and nine misdemeanor warrant charges, including kidnapping to commit robbery, assaulting a minor with intent to rape, false imprisonment, rape and other charges.
PALM DESERT – Three people – including two men and a woman – have been identified as suspects in a child-based sex trafficking ring after members of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, with assistance from officials from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Palm Desert Station, served a search warrant May 4.
The search warrant was served at an apartment in the 77100 block of California Drive in Palm Desert, after a nearly seven-month long investigation into the alleged commercial sex trafficking of a 15-year-old girl who had been abducted from Moreno Valley, according to Riverside County Sheriff’s Sergeant John Sawyer.
Two alleged suspects have already been identified and arrested in the ongoing investigation. The location of the third alleged suspect is currently unknown and officials are seeking the public’s assistance in locating the man.
After a thorough and lengthy investigation, RCAHT task force members and sheriff’s investigators identified, located and arrested Brandon Deonte Ellison and Ashley Nicole Gonzalez for a variety of charges related to the case. The third suspect, identified as Dejuan Darsean Lewis, remains at large and is still being sought in connection to the alleged crimes.
Following the investigation and warrant service, Ellison, 27, of Palm Desert, was booked into the Riverside County Jail in Indio. He was booked for charges related to human trafficking of a minor, pimping of a minor, kidnapping with intent to commit robbery and abduction of a minor for purposes of prostitution. Ellison is being held without bail.
At the request of RCAHT investigators, Gonzalez, 24, was located and taken into custody by the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force. Gonzalez was transported and booked into the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta for charges of human trafficking of a minor. Gonzalez is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.
The third suspect, identified by investigators as Dejuan Darsean Lewis, 31, “remains outstanding and his current whereabouts are unknown. A no-bail felony warrant has been issued for Lewis’ arrest,” according to Sawyer. “Anyone with information on Lewis’ current whereabouts is encouraged to call 911 for immediate law enforcement assistance.”
The months-long investigation determined the victim, whose identity will not be released due to her age and the circumstances of the investigation, was allegedly abducted by Ellison and Lewis while she was walking near the Moreno Valley Mall in March 2015.
The victim was reportedly taken by Ellison and Lewis to the apartment on California Drive, in Palm Desert. Once she was being held captive at the Palm Desert residence, the two men allegedly took provocative photographs of the young victim, which they then used to place prostitution advertisements on an online website for classified ads.
Once the victim had been abducted and was being held against her will in Palm Desert, Gonzalez – who also reportedly conducted prostitution at Ellison’s direction – allegedly “taught the victim how to conduct prostitution,” Sawyer explained.
“The victim was given a daily quota and subjected to repeated beatings or sexual assaults by Lewis if she failed to earn a certain amount of money on a daily basis,” according to Sawyer. “The victim remained in this situation for several months out of fear of her traffickers; who not only beat and raped her, but told her they would hunt her down if she escaped.”
While being held captive, the victim was sexually trafficked in the areas of Indio, Palm Springs, Rancho Cucamonga, and Colton.
“In May 2015, the victim was able to escape her traffickers and in the months that followed obtained counseling and therapy for the trauma she endured,” Sawyer explained. “Through these counseling efforts, the victim was able to disclose details of her victimization to the human trafficking task force who initiated a criminal investigation.”
Both Ellison and Gonzalez are scheduled to be arraigned at the Riverside Hall of Justice, May 6.
“The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2010 to address crimes involving the exploitation of victims via force, fraud, or coercion, Sawyer explained in a press release about the alleged abduction and subsequent arrests. “These cases often involve the commercial sex trafficking of children, as well as incidents of forced labor, indentured servitude, debt bondage, or slavery.”
The RCAHT Task Force is a multidisciplinary task force which combines the investigative resources of both local and federal law enforcement. The task force also provides victim services as well as education and outreach through partnerships with the non-profit groups Operation SafeHouse and Million Kids.
The law enforcement component of RCAHT is composed of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, along with the Hemet Police Department and Riverside Police Department.
“This investigation of this incident is continuing,” according to Sawyer. “The RCAHT Task Force believes there may be additional victims in this case, and encourages any such victim to come forward.”
Anyone with additional information about this case is encouraged to contact Senior District Attorney Investigator Ian Anderson at (951) 955-1700 or via email at IAnderson@RivCoDA.org. Callers can refer to incident file number R152600004 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.
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