A joint effort in Merced nabbed two alleged human traffickers and seven alleged johns in a recent prostitution sting, according to police.
Two Merced police units, the Disruptive Area Response Team and Gang Violence Suppression Unit, conducted undercover operations last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, police said in a news release. It was part of a statewide effort against human trafficking and prostitution.
The effort including arrangements to meet with people advertising online to have sex, police said. The arrangement was an attempt to see if the sex workers were victims of trafficking, according to police.
The undercover effort targeted sex workers who appeared underage or who had their faces obscured, police said. Six sex workers were detained after arriving at an agreed upon location, police said, before they were interviewed and offered help to leave the industry.
Police said they determined 29-year-old Jake Lebeaux of Atwater and 24-year-old Philip Victor Garcia of Fresno were pimps. Both were arrested on suspicion of pimping and other suspected crimes, police said.
Other alleged pimps remain under investigation, police said.
The Merced police units and the FBI's Fresno Office collaborated to advertise on "known commercial sex websites" to target solicitors of prostitution, police said.
Officers arrested seven suspected johns before releasing them with citations, police said. They were David Nason, 33; Reginald Chandra, 32; Juan Villanueva, 37; Kellen Cheadle, 27; Kenady Sims, 33; Armando Valencia, 37; and Carlos Molina, 34, according to police.
Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding these cases to contact Officer Brian Rinder at 209-385-7773, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at 209-385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.