RIVERSIDE: Multi-state sex-trafficking ring uncovers 20 victims, many juveniles
RIVERSIDE – Officials announced the arrest of an alleged pimp who has been charged with human-trafficking of a 16-year-old girl and advertising her services as a prostitute in multiple online publications.
The man, identified as Lawrence Gunn Jr., 32, was arrested without incident Nov. 29, according to Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant John Sawyer.
The charge of child sex trafficking carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
20 victims, many juveniles, recovered after 10-month-long investigation
Gunn was arrested after a nearly ten-month-long investigation into the commercial sex trafficking of more than 20 female victims who have been identified to date. Some of the victims who have been recovered are juveniles.
Members of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) served an arrest warrant in the 6300 block of Variel Avenue, in the Woodland Hills area in Los Angeles, where Gunn was residing.
The investigation into Gunn’s illegal activities began in February when authorities traced a 16-year-old victim to a Moreno Valley motel, where Gunn was forcing her to work as a prostitute. The young girl’s family had reported her as missing.
In addition to the 16-year-old girl, officials discovered five more victims who were being forced to work for Gunn as prostitutes in Moreno Valley. Officials determined three of the recovered victims in the Moreno Valley motel were minors.
The discovery of the victims was made during a joint operation by members of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Los Angeles County Human Trafficking Task Force, and deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Moreno Valley Police Station.
See other recent sex trafficking cases from around Riverside County:
Many of Gunn’s victims “branded” with his moniker
Gunn, who goes by the street name, “Classified,” allegedly branded many of his prostitutes, including the 16-year-old girl with tattoos of his moniker. Many had his moniker tattooed over their right eyes or on their upper bodies. Gunn did this to permanently mark the sex workers he forced into prostitution.
According to officials, this type of tattooing, commonly referred to as “branding,” is commonly used by sex traffickers to not only dehumanize their victims, but to also permanently mark them as the personal property of the human trafficker.
One victim had as many as 100 sexual advertisements in multiple states
During their investigation, officials from the multi-agency task force learned that Gunn had been placing advertisements for his female trafficking victims soliciting commercial sex acts on the website Backpage.com and through other forms of social media.
One victim was found to have as many as 100 sexual advertisements posted for her in states as far away as Alaska and Minnesota.
Several of the recovered victims told investigating task force members that Gunn took all proceeds collected from the prostitution activities. Gunn reportedly forced one of his out-of-state victims to use a wire transfer services to send him more than $17,000 over a three-month time span, according to officials.
Officials arrested Gunn after he was named in a criminal complaint filed in United States District Court last week. The criminal complaint charged Gunn with the sex trafficking of a child by force, fear, fraud or coercion. Gunn made his initial appearance in federal court in Riverside Wednesday, Nov. 30.
Gunn remains in custody and is being held without bail at a federal detention center in San Bernardino.
Gunn’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tritia L. Yuen for the Central District of California, the Riverside Branch Office.
Riverside Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT)
The County of Riverside’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2010 to address crimes involving the exploitation of victims via force, fraud, or coercion. 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 RCAHT Task Force also provides victim services and education/outreach through partnerships with the non-profit groups Operation SafeHouse and Million Kids.
“The law enforcement component of RCAHT is currently composed of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, along with the part-time participation of the Hemet Police Department and Riverside Police Department,” Sawyer explained in a press release about the incident and Gunn’s arrest.
“Forcing anyone, much less a child, to prostitute themselves…
is morally reprehensible”
“Every day, human trafficking victimizes large numbers of women and children, causing victims physical harm and long-lasting emotional trauma,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case demonstrates that law enforcement has adopted a new approach that views the women and children as crime victims, but we will continue to aggressively prosecute their traffickers.”
“Forcing anyone, much less a child, to prostitute themselves under the constant threat of physical harm is not only criminal – it is morally reprehensible,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “That what amounts to modern slavery occurs here in our communities in the 21st century is inconceivable. HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those involved are held accountable for their crimes.”
“This investigation of this incident is continuing,” Sawyer explained. 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 Special Agent Kathryn Klesper with Homeland Security Investigations at (951) 955-9344 or via email at Kathryn.L.Klesper@ice.dhs.gov. Callers can refer to incident file number R160570001 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trevor Montgomery spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including the Robert Presley Detention Center, the Southwest Station in Temecula, the Hemet Station, and the Lake Elsinore Station, along with many other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, Personnel and Background Investigations and he finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator.
Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.