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19 Child Sex Trafficking Suspects Arrested in California

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19 Child Sex Trafficking Suspects Arrested in California

Police sirens flash in a file photo. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sophie Li

Sophie Li

12/7/2023

Updated: 12/7/2023

Authorities announced the arrests of over a dozen child sex trafficking suspects Dec. 5 after a three-day multiagency operation.
Undercover agents and detectives posing as minors offering sex for pay on apps and websites in the operation, dubbed “White Elephant,” led to the arrest of 19 suspects between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office.
“In California, we do not tolerate the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children,” Mr. Bonta said in a Dec. 5 press release. “Our fight against sexual exploitation and human trafficking will not waver because even one person being exploited is one too many.”
All suspects have been booked into Kings County and Tulare County jails, facing charges including sending harmful material to seduce a minor, communicating with a minor for sex, meeting with a minor for sexual purposes, and enticing a minor to produce pornography.
Seventeen were identified by the Kings County Sheriff’s Department: Joshua Wilkinson, 35; Cody Mendes, 30; Ernesto Castro, 30; Benustiano Martinez Ceja, 30; Elijah Perez, 22; Juan Vasquez, 30; Jose Munoz Jimenez, 34; Leyser Padillia Galicia, 30; David Serrato, 35; Jose Garcia, 32; Andrew Prieto, 26; Jose Figueroa Laredo, 29; Jose Leno Martinez, 25; Raul Carrillo Flores, 38; Isaac Martinez, 29; Andrew Orosco, 24; and Anthony Baffo, 47.
The attorney general said that the Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Team within the Department of Justice was established to combat these types of crimes, what he called “a modern-day form of slavery.”
“This specialized team provides targeted support and taking aggressive measures to put an end to these heinous crimes in our state,” Mr. Bonta said in the statement. “Together, we can create a safer future for all vulnerable individuals who deserve protection, freedom, and justice.”
Additionally, agents, officers, and deputies from the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hanford Police Department, Lemoore Police Department, and Corcoran Police Department assisted in the operation, according to the statement.
The Kings County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request for more information.
According to a report by KTLA, deputies also rescued two females from a human trafficking operation during the sting operation.
“Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation is a growing issue, requiring vigilance and constant attention,” said Kings County Sheriff David Robinson in the statement. “It can take place in any community, regardless of the community’s size or location.”
Sophie Li

Sophie Li

Author

Sophie Li is a Southern California-based reporter covering local daily news, state policies, and breaking news for The Epoch Times. Besides writing, she is also passionate about reading, photography, and tennis.

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