SALINAS (CBS SF) — Salinas police arrested multiple men this month in connection with a human trafficking ring in which the men allegedly provided drugs and alcohol to teenage girls in order to prostitute them in Salinas and San Jose, police announced Friday.
Police stumbled upon the alleged ring on Feb. 4 when they responded to a disturbance in the 200 block of Kern Street, where officers learned that a family was trying to recover a 14-year-old female family member who had run away.
After successfully recovering the girl, the family learned that she had been exploited and trafficked.
Police began investigating and identified four suspects in connection with the ring: 19-year-old Daniel Amaro of Soledad, 23-year-old Abriam Ibarra of Salinas, 25-year-old Alfredo Hernandez of Gonzales and 31-year-old Ruben Trujillo of Greenfield.
Additionally, police were able to identify at least eight victims, aged between 14 and 18 years old.
Investigators learned that Amaro and Ibarra would give the victims drugs and alcohol and take suggestive pictures of them. The pictures were then posted on social media for the purpose of prostitution.
The suspects would keep the money made from the transactions and would also control what the girls could eat or drink, police said.
In addition to the online ads, the suspects made the girls walk around hotels in the areas of Kern, Roosevelt and East Market streets in Salinas.
Investigators also learned that the suspects had also transported the victims to San Jose, where they were forced to work.
The Salinas Police Department then teamed with the San Jose Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force and on Feb. 9, they traveled to Salinas to assist with the operation.
Authorities then located Amaro in Ceres and arrested him. At the time, he was with a 14-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl, both from
Salinas, as well as a 15-year-old Ceres girl.
Amaro was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, pimping a victim under the age of 16 and conspiracy.
The victims were all placed in safe environments, police said.
On Sunday, a Salinas patrol officer responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of a Walmart store at 1800 North Main Street.
There, officers identified the driver as 21-year-old Anthony Ramirez. In his car, officers found Abriam Ibarra as well as a 15-year-old Salinas girl and a 20-year-old woman.
The 20-year-old woman was released and Ramirez was cited and released for contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a probation violation.
The underage girl was released to her family.
Ibarra was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, pimping a victim under 16, having sex with a person under 16 while being 21 years old, conspiracy and a probation violation.
On Tuesday, detectives located suspects Hernandez and Trujillo.
Both were arrested on suspicion of sex crimes with a child under 14 while being 10 years older than the victim.
Salinas police called the ring a “complex and far-reaching criminal enterprise” and thanked several departments for assisting them, including the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jose Police Department and the ICAC task force, in addition to the Ceres Police Department, Monterey County Probation Department and Monterey County Social Services.
The investigation remains ongoing and police are seeking additional victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact police Detective Ruben Sanchez at (831) 758-7927 or email@example.com or Detective Gabriel Gonzalez at (831) 758-7127 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who wishes to remain anonymous can call (831) 775-4222 or (800) 782-7463.
© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.