The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office participated in a press conference held today, Jan. 31, 2017, at the Hall of Justice in downtown Los Angeles to announce the details and results from the third annual “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” conducted by the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.
In conjunction with Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Sheriff’s Office was one of more than 30 participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the state that participated in a three-day effort to combat human trafficking.
The operation, which took place from Jan. 26 to 28, was widely successful, with the recovery of 28 commercially exploited children, 27 adult victims, 142 males arrested for solicitation and 36 males arrested for pimping.
In total, there were 474 people arrested statewide, and of those 14 were in Santa Barbara County.
During the period of “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild”, investigators from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Bureau, the Santa Barbara Regional Crime Abatement Team, the Santa Barbara Human Trafficking Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) conducted three different stings to identify human traffickers and other related crimes.
On Jan. 26, investigators conducted an “in call” sting where an undercover investigator contacted a prostitute advertising on an online escort page and negotiated a sex act in exchange for money.
After negotiating the sex act, investigators contacted the prostitute at her hotel room and made the arrest. As result of the first night stings, investigators arrested two different females for violation of prostitution at two separate local hotels within the city of Santa Barbara.
The women were and released on a citation to appear in court.
Both female prostitutes were offered services from a Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office specially trained human trafficking victim advocate.
Aaron Hoggard, 25, of Bakersfield was arrested near one of the hotels and was booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of pimping and pandering a prostitute.
On Jan. 27, investigators conducted an “out call” sting where an undercover investigator contacted a prostitute advertising on an online escort page and negotiated a sex act in exchange for money. After negotiating the sex act, investigators waited for the prostitute to arrive at a local hotel room within the city of Goleta.
Once the prostitute arrived, she was contacted and placed under arrest for prostitution. During the sting, three different female prostitutes negotiated and arrived at the hotel room for sexual acts.
All three were arrested and offered the services of a specially trained human trafficking advocate from the District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to the three females arrested for prostitution, 45-year-old Anthony Syon and 28-year-old Aida Garcia-Perez, both of Las Vegas, were arrested for allegedly pimping and pandering one of the prostitutes arrested, and were booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail. Syon was also booked on charges of resisting arrest.
On Jan. 28, investigators conducted a reverse “John” sting where an undercover investigator placed an online add listing the availability of a female willing to engage in sexual acts in exchange for money at a hotel in the city of Goleta. The purpose of this sting operation is to discourage the demand for sex workers who are often times abused and victims of human trafficking.
After negotiating with the female undercover investigator, the “John” would arrive at the hotel to complete the transaction, but would be arrested. During this sting, investigators arrested six males for violation of 647(b) PC, solicitation of prostitution and they were all booked at the Santa Barbara County Jail.
They were identified as:
» Martin Steinley, 20, of Santa Barbara.
» Zachary Harrison, 28, of Isla Vista.
» Damien Pearson, 30, of Santa Barbara.
» Eli Sheiman, 41, of Santa Barbara.
» Sergio Torres, 22, of Santa Barbara.
» Jose Aristondo Arreaga, 37, of Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Olmstead, who represented the Sheriff’s Office at the press conference in Los Angeles and supervised the operation, said he was encouraged to see the number of law enforcement agencies working together to combat human trafficking.
He said, “The Sheriff’s Office will continue to conduct stings in order to rescue victims of human trafficking and arrest the suspects who are enslaving these victims. We hope the public will be vigilant in reporting any suspicious activity that could be related to human trafficking.
“People who are victims of human trafficking have been rescued solely by citizens who reported seeing suspicious behavior.”
More than 120 federal, state and municipal law enforcement detectives participated in planning this operation, and worked together in hopes of sending a clear message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the state of California.
Kelly Hoover is a public information officers with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.