TEMECULA: Undercover sting nets 2 men seeking sex with minor, 7 seeking prostitutes

TEMECULA — Nine men, including eight Riverside County residents, were arrested during “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.” The sting was part of a statewide, law enforcement effort aimed at sending a clear message that human trafficking will no longer be tolerated in California, according to officials. In all, last week’s operation resulted in more than 500 people arrested for various charges.

According to Task Force officials 56 victims – including 45 adults and 11 underage girls – were rescued during the statewide undercover sting. Since its 2015 inception, the ongoing operation has resulted in the arrest of thousands of suspects and rescue of more than 220 sex trafficking victims.

During the coordinated operation, participating law enforcement agencies throughout California “proactively focused their efforts on rescuing human trafficking victims, identifying and arresting their captors, and disrupting the demand for sex trafficking victims,” Riverside Sheriff’s Sgt. John Sawyer explained after the sting.

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Using the premise of meeting a prostitute or juvenile girl at a motel for sex, last week’s Riverside County arrests included men from the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Corona and Menifee. A Solano County man was also arrested.

Riverside County’s portion of the operation included Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force members working in conjunction with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Temecula Police Station’s Problem Oriented Policing Team, Sawyer explained.

As part of the sting, undercover officials placed “decoy advertisements” on classified websites that are commonly used for the solicitation of prostitution, according to officials.

Posing as a prostitute or an underage female, “these officers then responded to prospective customers who replied to these advertisements,” Sawyer explained. “Once an agreement for prostitution was brokered, the customers were arrested upon their arrival at a pre-determined meeting location.”

Last Thursday’s sting took place at Quality Inn on the 27000 block of Jefferson Avenue, near Winchester Road, in Temecula.

As the sting operation progressed, seven of the men agreed to meet with a person they believed to be a prostitute for sex acts.

Those arrested for solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor, included Brandon Lee Crippen, 30, of Fairfield, Joseph Sandoval Gamez, 31, of Murrieta, William Joseph McDaniel II, 25, of Murrieta, Leonzo Pasqual, 40, of Murrieta, Derf Delacruz Rivera, 24, of Corona, Jose Jesus Salazar, 28, of Menifee and Jeffrey Lane Warfield, 50, of Menifee.

Two additional men, who officials allege solicited a person they believed was a “juvenile girl” for sex, were arrested for solicitation of a minor for lewd acts. The two arrested included Gregg Arthur Hassler, 55, of Temecula and Richard Nathan Woods, 37, of Menifee. Both men were booked on felony charges.

All nine men arrested in Riverside County during the statewide operation were booked at Cois Byrd Detention Center. All the men were released within hours of their arrests, after receiving a citation to appear at Murrieta’s Southwest Justice Center, Mar. 26.

SEE ALSO: Hemet resident charged in human trafficking investigation

SEE ALSO: Nearly 500 arrested during statewide human trafficking sting

SEE ALSO: Multi state sex trafficking ring uncovers 20 victims, many juveniles

SEE ALSO: Desert Hot Springs man arrested accused of human trafficking of a minor

SEE ALSO: Last of 3 sought in Palm Desert child sex trafficking ring arrested

Saying prostitution is not a “victimless” crime and that ninety-five percent of sex trafficking victims are women or children, Sawyer explained that RCAHT officials aggressively work to “identify, pursue and apprehend those who seek to exploit those whom are most vulnerable.”

According to officials, victims of commercial sexual exploitation frequently have long histories of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse or trauma in their backgrounds. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that one in six endangered runaways are likely victims of sex trafficking.

The victims are often subjected to severe forms of sexual, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of those who traffic them and are also often sexually and physically assaulted by those who solicit them for prostitution.

In order to “disrupt and dismantle” human and sex trafficking rings operating within Riverside County, Sawyer explained that Task Force members use proactive enforcement operations such as Operation Reclaim and Rebuild to reduce future demand for sex trafficking by identifying and arresting those willing to pay for sex.

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 and Riverside Police Departments.

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor 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, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with 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 and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 27 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 14 grandchildren.

2 comments

  • This article says they are sending a message that human trafficking will no longer be tolerated in California but these men were all released within hours of their arrest and I know at least one of the men, Greg Hassler was only sentenced to probation. How does this send the message that we will not tolerate human trafficking? To me, this sends a message that even if you get caught it’s no big deal.

    • Brenda Towey you ask a legitimate question. Maybe you should consider the reason these men were released immediately and this person placed on probation is because none of them were actually involved in trafficking anyone, not because there’s something wrong with the legal system. However, there IS something wrong with the sting program’s questionable methods. Just taking part in a text conversation with an undercover where suggestive messages are sent back and forth constitutes a crime – Even if no activity follows the discussion, even if no payment is discussed, even if you decline to meet with them and never meet. Were you aware that the extent of this person’s activity was texting back and forth? I’m sure not. You don’t even have to agree to go to meet with undercovers, much less actually show up at the sting hotel location to get swept up. Just engage them in a text conversation, say a couple dumb things and get arrested… Then they threaten 12 years in prison… and simultaneously offer a probation deal, a tiny fine and a clean record in 3 years as an alternative. Which option would you take? Do you really believe anyone should spend 12 years in prison for a text conversation? The vast majority of men entrapped by this program settle with a plea deal to avoid a ruinous, lengthy trial. The questions you should really ask is: Why is there a federal grant-funded program that gives money to local agencies to place false profiles and personal ads on adult websites, actively entice men to discuss engaging in potentially illegal activity, arrest them for such speech, and then proceed to issue dramatic news releases falsely implying the men are involved in a national trafficking conspiracy?

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