How Santa Clarita deputies helped uncover a human trafficking ring in Canyon Country

LASD car. Signal file photo.
LASD car. Signal file photo.

When Santa Clarita deputies responded to a report of an assault back in spring of 2016, they uncovered evidence that would lead to one of the first investigations for a then-new unit of the Sheriff’s Department, a Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force official said Thursday.

Deputies responded to a Canyon Country resident’s report of an assault, but during the course of their investigation, they discovered that, in addition to the assault, two women were part of a human trafficking ring, according to Sgt. Walker a member of the Task Force.

The deputies passed the information on to the task force, which had been created in November 2015, which ultimately led to the arrests of two individuals, Eric Hamwey and Michael Shaw.

The two are accused of housing the women in a Canyon Country apartment, forcing the women to live under very strict confinement and work as prostitutes in areas throughout Los Angeles County, including the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena, according to court records. The prostitution did not take place in Santa Clarita, Walker said.

The pair were held to answer to the charges in May of this year, and their next court date is Jan. 23 for further scheduling of the trial and a discussion of evidence, according to Ani Bailey, who’s prosecuting the case for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Evidence presented during the preliminary hearing indicated the apartment was used as the staging area for the prostitutes, who were abused while living by very strict rules.

Hamwey, 32, of Encino, was held to answer to: 236.1(B) PC, or human trafficking; 266H(A) PC, or pimping; 266I(A)(1)PC, pandering or procuring someone for prostitution services. He pleaded not guilty to all three charges, and is currently being held in lieu of $435,000 bail, according to court and Sheriff’s Department records.

Michael Shaw, a Santa Clarita resident, was held to answer to eight charges: two counts of 236.1(B); two counts of 266H(A) PC; one count of 266I(A)(1); and three counts of 29800(A)(1)PC, felon in possession of a firearm. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, and is currently in jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Shaw was arrested after deputies responding to a call determined he was trafficking an adult victim for sex and had violently assaulted her, according to a news release issued by sheriff’s Deputy Lisa Jansen in May last year.

Shaw had fled the location before deputies arrived, and the victim attempted to flee, as well, according to a news release issued by Los Angeles County Sheriff Department Deputy Lisa Jansen in May last year.

Task force detectives learned Hamwey had previously befriended the victim on Instagram and flown her to California from Texas for the purpose of commercial adult sex work, the deputy wrote.

After a short time, Hamwey reportedly “sold” the assault victim to Shaw.

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