Detectives posting online advertisements offering sex with girls aged 16 and 14 ended up arresting four men Thursday – one local, three from out of town – on suspicion of making arrangements to meet a minor for lewd behavior.
“The second we posted the ads we were bombarded with text messages and phone calls,” Lt. Barry Hall of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau told The Signal Friday.
Three of the ads featured girls reported to be 16 years old. One of the ads advertised sex with a 14-year-old girl, depicting a computer “regressed” photo meaning the image was digitally altered, Hall said, to make the woman look younger
“The very minute we posted the ad we received 1,200 text messages,” Hall said.
Thursday’s sting operation comes on the heels of a similar operation carried out last month by the same Human Trafficking Bureau.
On March 7, the team arrested four men – three of them residents of Newhall and a Littlerock resident, also on suspicion of making arrangements to meet a minor for lewd behavior.
The latest sting brings to eight the total number of suspects arrested for allegedly wanting to pay for sex with a minor.
“We posted the ads for commercial sex,” Hall said. “We represent ourselves as a minor. Four males arranged to meet, each acknowledging we were under age, to commit certain sex acts.”
The detectives arranged to meet the men in an area off Interstate 5 near Lyons Avenue, Hall said.
“The I-5 corridor is good for us,” he said. “It’s right off the freeway with heavy traffic.”
The men arrested Thursday range in age from 26 to 47, each detained with bail set at $75,000.
The suspects include: a 26-year-old computer technician who lies in Van Nuys; a Canyon Country mortgage rep, age 35; a 44-year-old laborer who lives in Winnetka and a 46-year-old carpenter from Pacoima.
The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force was launched by the LASD in November 2015 employing “a victim-centered approach to fight the heinous crime of human exploitation,” the bureau’s webpage reads.
The task force is made up of sheriff’s detectives who work with federal, state, county, and local resources to focus on sex and labor trafficking investigations.
Team members also focus on identifying and rescuing trafficking victims and work with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking to provide “victim-centered services” to meet the needs of victims, while working to investigate, arrest and prosecute offenders.
Since it was formed, the taskforce has grown to include five federal agencies, four state agencies, four county agencies, and three local policing agencies, including: the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Offices of the United States Attorneys, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the County of Los Angeles Probation Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Adult Parole Operations, and the United States Department of Homeland Security.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt