SALINAS, Calif. — Four men from cities across the Salinas Valley were arrested in a human trafficking bust, and eight teenage girls were rescued, Salinas police announced Thursday.
Police said they anticipate making even more arrests, and finding additional victims.
Salinas Police Department officers teamed up with FBI agents for this major investigation, which began on Kern Street February 4.
A 14-year-old girl's family tried to rescue the girl from a vehicle parked on Kern Street, and officers were alerted of a "disturbance."
When officers arrived, they discovered that the girl was a runaway who was being trafficked by Daniel Amaro, 19, of Soledad, police said.
Amaro fled, but was later found and arrested.
"Over the next few days, detectives from the Salinas Police Department's Investigations Bureau followed up on information they were receiving and identified other victims, as well as at least three additional suspects," police said.
Eight girls, whose ages range between 14-18, were being exploited by a group of men, police said. Two of the girls were only 14 years old.
The suspects are identified as Abriam Ibarra, 23, of Salinas; Alfredo Hernandez, 25, of Gonzales; and Ruben Trujillo, 31, of Greenfield.
Amaro and Ibarra gave drugs and alcohol to the victims, photographed the girls partially nude, and posted those photographs on social media to sell sexual encounters, according to police.
The group, "Set up prostitution activity between the victims and purchasers, 'Johns.' They collected and kept any money received for prostitution deals, and controlled when and what the victims could eat and drink," police said.
The girls were ordered to walk around hotels along Kern Street, Roosevelt Street, and East Market Street. Amaro and Ibarra fielded phones calls from interested "Johns," police said.
The girls were also taken outside of Salinas.
"One of the areas was San Jose, where victims were given drugs and made to walk one of the malls while Amaro solicited possible purchasers," police said.
Amaro was tracked down in Ceres, Calif. and Ceres Police Department officers arrested him during a traffic stop. He was with a 14-year-old Salinas girl who had been reported as missing, a 17-year-old Salinas girl, and a 15-year-old Ceres girl.
Amaro was booked in the Monterey County Jail for multiple counts of human trafficking, pimping a victim who is less than 16 years old, and conspiracy.
Ibarra was booked into jail for several counts of human trafficking and pimping, unlawful sex with a minor, and conspiracy.
Some of the girls were reunited with their families, and others were taken to a "safe environment," police said.
On Sunday, a Salinas patrol officer was checking out a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of Walmart on North Main Street. The officer questioned the driver, 21-year-old Anthony Ramirez. He was with a 15-year-old Salinas girl, and police cited him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
On Tuesday, detectives arrested Hernandez and Trujillo on suspicion of committing sex crimes with minors.
Salinas police said, "This complex and far-reaching criminal enterprise called for additional resources. The Salinas Police Department is grateful for the expert assistance of the Monterey County District Attorney's Office, the San Jose Police Department, in particular the ICAC Task Force, the FBI., the Ceres Police Department, Monterey County Probation Department, and Monterey County Social Services for their cooperation and continued assistance with this complicated case."
If anyone has information regarding this case or anything similar, you are asked to call Salinas police Detective Ruben Sanchez at 831-758-7927, or Detective Gabriel Gonzalez at 831-758-7127.