Most Victims were Under 18 and were Recruited from Inland Empire Schools
RIVERSIDE, CA—A federal grand jury has indicted eight people—four of whom allegedly are members of a South Los Angeles street gang—on charges related to the sex trafficking of teenage girls who were recruited and groomed to work as prostitutes across Southern California.
Six of the defendants were arrested this morning by some of the members of the Inland Child Exploitation/Prostitution Task Force, which is comprised of agents, deputies, and officers with the FBI; the Riverside County, California Sheriff’s Department; Riverside Police Department; San Bernardino, California Police Department; Pomona, California Police Department; and Ontario, California Police Department. The other two defendants are already in state custody.
A grand jury on August 1, 2012, returned an 18-count indictment that accuses seven of the defendants of conspiring to engage in the sex trafficking of seven teenage girls, six of whom were under the age of 18. The indictment alleges that “force, threats of force, fraud, and coercion would be used to cause the victims to engage in commercial sex acts.”
“The sex trafficking of women and juveniles is a heinous and disturbing crime,” said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte, Jr. “The charges in this case send a powerful message to any and all persons—including street gang members—who would engage in such cruel and heartless conduct. With our partners in law enforcement, we will continue to pursue and prosecute gang members and their associates in whatever new criminal ventures they seek to engage in.”
“In recent years, dozens of task forces throughout the United States have charged over 1,000 defendants and have successfully recovered more than 2,100 children victimized by domestic sex trafficking,” said Timothy Delaney, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Criminal enterprises whose members seek out vulnerable children for the purposes of prostitution have exploited advances in technology to extend their reach online and cast a wider net in which to ensnare American children. Law enforcement at all levels are working collaboratively to address this growing crime problem.”
In court documents asking that each of the defendants be held without bond, prosecutors contend “that the defendants conspired to, and did, recruit, employ, and use minors as prostitutes for their own financial gain. The defendants preyed on vulnerable victims, convinced them to become prostitutes, and verbally and physically abused them when they did not perform as required.”
The defendants named in the indictment are:
■Paul Edward Bell, who used multiple monikers, including “J-Roc,” 27, of Lynwood, California, who allegedly is a member of the Rolling 60s Crips street gang;
■Samuel Rogers, aka “Bone,” 22, of Moreno Valley, California, another alleged member of the Rolling 60s;
■Gary Rogers, who uses monikers such as “G-Man,” 23, of Moreno Valley, who also is an alleged member of the street gang and is Samuel Rogers’s brother;
■Christopher Weldon, who is also known by several names, including “Chris Roc,” 22, of Compton, California, the fourth alleged Rolling 60s member named in the indictment who is Bell’s half-brother;
■Javiya Brooks, who is also known by several permutations of “Shady Blue,” 19, of Lynwood, who was the lead prostitute for Bell;
■Kimberly Alberti, who is also known as “Pucca,” 19, of Riverside, who was the lead prostitute for Samuel Rogers;
■Kristy Harrell, 20, of Riverside, who is Gary Rogers’s lead prostitute; and
■Su Yan, 30, of Rosemead, California, a Chinese national who allegedly assisted Bell with his prostitution business.
The defendants arrested today are expected to be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Riverside. The remaining defendants—the Rogers brothers, who were already in custody—will be arraigned in federal court on August 29, 2012.
The indictment charges seven of the defendants with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. Six of the defendants—Bell, Samuel Rogers, Gary Rogers, Weldon, Brooks, and Harrell—are also charged with at least one substantive count of sex trafficking. Samuel Rogers, for example, is charged with six substantive counts of sex trafficking. The substantive sex trafficking charges each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a potential sentence of life without parole.
The indictment also charges Bell with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Yan is named in one count that alleges interstate transportation in aid of a racketeering enterprise.
“As sheriff, I am proud of the work conducted by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and its allied agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” said Riverside County Sheriff Stanley Sniff. “Human trafficking is a serious issue, locally and nationally. Upon receiving information related to forced prostitution of minor juveniles, an intensive investigation was initiated by the Riverside Sheriff’s Department. This investigation expanded, with resources made available by the assistance of fellow law enforcement agencies, these victims of forced prostitution and physical abuse were located and rescued and several suspects identified and arrested.”
“This case is an example of an alarming trend that we have been seeing for several years on a nationwide and global scale,” said Riverside Chief of Police Sergio Diaz. “Increasingly, criminal organizations, including street gangs, are expanding into the areas of prostitution and human trafficking. The lesson to law enforcement is very clear; prostitution is not a victimless crime. This is a criminal enterprise that specifically targeted vulnerable girls and young women. The victimization of these girls was facilitated by the acceptance of prostitution as commerce.”
The investigation in this case began in January 2011, when the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department learned that teenage girls attending schools in the Inland Empire were being recruited to work as prostitutes. The investigation later revealed that Alberti attended one of the schools and recruited underage females by “grooming them”—or gaining their trust and telling them that they could make large sums of money by working as prostitutes for Alberti’s pimp, according to court documents. The girls who were successfully recruited to work as prostitutes were brought to the Los Angeles area, where they were housed at hotels or at the pimps’ apartments. Some of the victims were housed at Bell’s apartment. The Rogers brothers and Bell also often housed the victim prostitutes at motels located in the Los Angeles area.
In a motion seeking the detention of the defendants, prosecutors argue that the alleged pimps “assaulted several of the victims in this case by beating them, raping them, and keeping them locked up.”
The investigation in this case was conducted by the FBI, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and the Riverside Police Department.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Riverside Branch, is handling the prosecution of the case with the assistance of the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.