Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

MARTINEZ — What started as a suspicious vehicle check at a prostitution hot spot in Concord quickly developed into a statewide human trafficking investigation and the arrest of a Modesto man, according to court records released this month.

Timothy Townsel, 20, was charged in Contra Costa County on Sept. 7 with five counts of human trafficking and a single count of street terrorism. Police say they have uncovered evidence that Townsel was running a sex ring involving two teen girls and two women, with offenses in Concord, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Modesto and Alameda.

One of the victims was younger than 16 years old when she ran away from home in the Central Valley, and ended up being solicited for sex around the Bay Area, authorities said.

Back in March, when a Concord police special enforcement team did a suspicious vehicle check outside of a motel that was known to authorities as a hot spot for prostitution. Police arrested a suspected john and identified three suspected prostitutes.

From there, police reviewed cell phone evidence and determined the women were being pimped by Townsel, who police say went by the nickname “T-Gottie.” Police say Townsel was listed in one woman’s phone as “Daddy” and there were conversations indicating she was prostituting and reporting back to him.

“Why cant u just b (sic) a good (expletive) like I need you to?” Townsel allegedly asked on one text message, according to police.

The next month, Townsel’s name came up in an Alameda investigation where police suspected him of trafficking a runaway girl from Stanislaus County who was younger than 16 at the time.

After a follow-up investigation, police realized Townsel had been arrested in Los Angeles in February and made calls from the county jail. Police reviewed the calls, which they say included talk between Townsel and a woman to recruit a 17-year-old girl into the prostitution ring.

When police arrested Townsel on Sept. 5, he allegedly admitted to being part of a Modesto street gang.

The five human trafficking counts name four victims, two of them underage. The charge of “street terrorism” is legally defined as committing a crime to benefit a gang. Additionally, the five human trafficking counts carry gang enhancements.

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