Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stood with Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra during a press conference on Thursday, July 27, 2017, at the historic Hall of Justice to announce recent joint efforts made in investigating and prosecuting one of the largest-scale human trafficking cases on the West Coast.
As a result of a tenacious investigation, Quentin Brown III, 30 years old, of Highland, was arrested on July 18 and charged with 41 criminal violations, including human trafficking of minors, pimping, pandering, grand theft, identity theft and receiving stolen property. Brown is being held in a Tulare County jail facility in lieu of $2.1 million bail.
Gerald Lavell Turner, 32 years old, of Fresno, was arrested on July 25 and charged with six felony violations, including human trafficking of minors, pimping and pandering. He is being held in a Tulare County jail facility in lieu of $645,000 bail.
The third suspect, Mia Maree McNeill, 32 years old, of Los Angeles, is still outstanding and wanted for 12 felony counts of grand theft, identity theft and receiving stolen property for her participation in the crime ring. Detectives ask the public for their assistance in identifying her whereabouts.
Anyone with information about Mia McNeill is asked to call the L.A. County Human Trafficking Bureau at 323-526-5156.
This investigation began in December 2016, with a report taken by deputy personnel in Tulare County for a missing female juvenile.
In January 2017, the teen girl was reportedly in an apartment in West Hollywood, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel who patrol that jurisdiction were notified.
The young girl was located at the apartment in the company of a female adult and a male adult, who was on parole. The deputies who responded to the apartment contacted all the parties and recognized signs of human trafficking; they discovered the females were sexually exploited.
The victims were rescued and detectives began an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the trafficking of these females for the purposes of commercial sex.
This was the beginning thread which led detectives to unravel a large-scale criminal operation.
In the end, eight female juvenile victims – some as young as 15 years old – and five female adult victims were rescued from being further exploited as commercial sex workers.
“Superior police work and persistence led investigators on an intensive, seven-month investigation of a sex trafficking operation,” McDonnell said. “It encompassed an area stretching from Bakersfield to the San Francisco Bay area, and from the Los Angeles Basin to Las Vegas, Nevada. This is exactly the kind of criminal enterprise which requires the rapid response and expertise of a specialized task force, like the L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.”
Three members of the illicit organization who profited from exploiting juveniles and adults in the illegal sex trade, identity theft and luxury vehicle thefts were identified.
Detectives researched the suspects and worked tirelessly to document how the suspects trafficked their victims in plain sight, using the internet, advertising and posting their victims for sale on select websites.
They learned fraudulent credit applications with information stolen from eight victims across the United States were used to rent apartments throughout California, which housed traffickers and served as brothels.
Sheriff Boudreaux spoke about a meeting with one of the victims and her recovery from the lifestyle forced upon her: “She was able to go to counseling after being ripped out of this environment. She has gone through rehab, and sitting with her most recently, she’s not the same person. She’s healthy. She looks healthy. Their families are reunited. Their family unit is strong again. And that’s only because of the efforts of law enforcement and bringing attention to cases just like this.”
“Law enforcement agents throughout the state work tirelessly every day to ensure that Californians are safe from exploitation and do not become victims of human trafficking,” Becerra said. “These charges stem from the hard work of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, and the California Department of Justice attorneys and Special Agents. I want to thank our law enforcement partners for their efforts over the course of this six-month investigation to bring these defendants to justice.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Human Trafficking Bureau houses the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, the nation’s largest co-located human trafficking task force. This task force is a collaboration of federal, state, county and local law enforcement, social service agency and non-government and community-based organizations investigating and serving the needs of commercially exploited adults and minors victimized for the purpose of sex and labor.
The Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force brings together systems and disciplines to address victims’ needs through a victim-centered, trauma-informed approach. The task force employs a regionalized strategy which crosses jurisdictional boundaries to identify and rescue victims, while aggressively pursuing traffickers and buyers.
They provide wraparound care to victims while ensuring strong investigations and prosecutions. Using a collaborative, victim-centered model, these professionals will work together from the beginning of each case to ensure the best possible outcomes for victims and the strongest possible prosecutions of traffickers.
With the establishment of the Task Force, the United States Attorney’s Office will be expanding its own human trafficking program with the addition of several prosecutors who will specialize in trafficking cases.
To view the full press conference video, click here.
View highlights of the press conference here.
To read more about the Human Trafficking Bureau, visit their website.