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Sexual Assault

LA Human Trafficking Stats: Fewer Reports May Not Signal Improvement

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by Ethan Ward for Crosstown LA

LOS ANGELES — It was 5 a.m. on June 6 of this year when an 18-year-old Hispanic female involved in commercial sex acts was attacked at a motel on the 9600 block of S. San Pedro St. in the Broadway-Manchester neighborhood. The suspect pulled her hair, choked her, then knocked her to the ground. The suspect threatened to kill her.

At 12:01 a.m. on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, a 16-year-old white female was working as a prostitute when she was overwhelmed by multiple suspects at the intersection of Zombar Ave. and Valerio St. in Van Nuys .

Both of these girls were victims of human trafficking, according to publicly available LAPD data.

Human trafficking, a form of “modern slavery,” is the “business of stealing freedom for profit,” according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. U.S. law defines human trafficking as the “use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts, labor or services against their will.”

In California earlier this year, nearly 50 victims of trafficking, including 14 minors, were rescued during a three-day sting operation across the state that led to 339 arrests.  

While popular culture would have us believe that human trafficking means underaged women locked in the back of an 18-wheeler being transported across the country, sometimes it can mean forcing someone to work for unfair wages or trapping someone here by taking away their passport so they are unable to leave the country.

Human trafficking is categorized by the LAPD in four ways: commercial sex acts, involuntary servitude, pimping and pandering, according to Det. Lina Teague, the officer in charge of human trafficking for the department. 

Det. Teague said involuntary servitude crimes include labor cases, such as not paying a nanny, or cases involving immigrants being exploited for their work. Pimping cases involve earnings received from prostitution. Pandering is when someone takes possession of another person for prostitution. 

“Sometimes guys will go out on the street and tell the girls ‘you shouldn’t be out here alone, you should be working for me,’” said Det. Teague, regarding pandering.

Here in the City of Los Angeles, reports of human trafficking are down 1.4% for the first nine months of 2019 compared to the same time last year. 

Between Jan. 1, 2010 (when the LAPD first made its data publicly available) and Dec. 31, 2018 (the most recent complete year of data), there were 174,827 reported cases involving human trafficking in the City of Los Angeles. In nearly 3% of these cases, children 17 and under were the victims. 

These are, of course, only the cases that are reported. The Human Trafficking Hotline reports that as shocking as these numbers are, they are likely a tiny fraction of the actual problem. 

If you’re thinking it could never happen in your backyard, think again. 

Publicly available data reveal the Vermont Square, Van Nuys and Florence neighborhoods rank highest in overall human trafficking from Jan. 1, 2010 – Dec. 31, 2018. Hyde Park and Vermont-Slauson round out the top five.

Downtown, Sawtelle and Westlake had the highest number of reported cases of human trafficking for the first nine months of this year, with all three seeing staggering increases of 160%, 60% and 42.8%, respectively from the same period last year.

Los Angeles’s many diverse communities make it easier for traffickers to hide victims and move them from place to place, according to research conducted by the Pacific Council on International Policy. Indeed, Los Angeles County was identified as a major hub for the commercial sexual exploitation of children in 2012. Advocacy organizations say undocumented immigrants are particularly vulnerable to falling prey to human trafficking.

Need help? Resources:

How we did it: We examined LAPD publicly available data on reports of human trafficking involving commercial sex acts, involuntary servitude, pimping and pandering the first nine months of 2019 compared to the same time period last year. For neighborhood boundaries, we rely on the borders defined by the Los Angeles Times. Learn more about our data here.

LAPD data only reflect crimes that are reported to the department, not how many crimes actually occurred. In making our calculations, we rely on the data the LAPD makes publicly available. On occasion, LAPD may update past crime reports with new information, or recategorize past reports. Those revised reports do not always automatically become part of the public database.

Want to know how your neighborhood fares? Or simply just interested in our data? Email us at askus@xtown.la.

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Crosstown covers the neighborhoods of Los Angeles in a different way — through data — to help people make their neighborhoods and the city safer, healthier, and more connected.

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Sexual Assault

‘Involuntary Celibate’ Arrested on Cyberstalking Charges

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LOS ANGELES — Special agents with the FBI this morning arrested a San Gabriel Valley man and online promoter of the involuntary celibate (incel) subculture on a federal cyberstalking charge that he conducted an internet harassment campaign against two teenage girls who rejected his sexual advances.

Carl Bennington, 33, was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint unsealed today in United States District Court in Los Angeles. Bennington will remain in federal custody pending the outcome of detention hearing scheduled for Thursday. His arraignment is scheduled for May 11.

The complaint alleges that, from at least February 2016 to March 2020, Bennington repeatedly used various social media accounts to harass young girls and women, including by sending hundreds of messages threatening to commit acts of physical and sexual violence against them if they did not submit to his sexual advances.

Neither victim ever met Bennington in person, according to the complaint. When one of the victims demanded that Bennington stop harassing her, Bennington replied that he was going to kill her and her family. 

Social media records show that, in addition to the threatening and harassing messages he sent to young women and girls, Bennington frequently made statements on internet groups promoting incel ideology. According to court documents, incels are persons who are unable to find a willing sex partner. Incel ideology promotes the view that women oppress men and have too much freedom to choose their own sexual partners. The ideology ranges in tone from sad and self-loathing to advocating the “absolute hatred” of women, according to court documents.

The complaint charges Bennington with cyberstalking, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated this matter.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David T. Ryan of the Terrorism and Export Crimes Section.

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Prosecutions

Weinstein Gets New Sex Assault Charge for Bev Hills Hotel Incident

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Man in Handcuffs

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced today that film producer Harvey Weinstein was charged with an additional sexual assault count stemming from an incident that allegedly occurred at a Beverly Hills hotel in May 2010.

Case BA483663 was amended to add one felony count of sexual battery by restraint. Weinstein (dob 3/19/52) was charged in January with one felony count each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by use of force and sexual battery by restraint.

“We are continuing to build and strengthen our case,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said. “As we gather corroborating evidence, we have reached out to other possible sexual assault victims. If we find new evidence of a previously unreported crime, as we did here, we will investigate and determine whether additional criminal charges should be filed.”

The new charge alleges that Weinstein sexually assaulted a woman at a Beverly Hills hotel on May 11, 2010. The victim was first interviewed by law enforcement in October 2019 as a possible corroborating witness in the case. Last month, she provided detectives with information confirming that the assault took place within the 10-year-statute of limitation.

The original criminal complaint charged Weinstein with sexually assaulting two women during separate incidents in 2013.

If convicted as charged in the amended complaint, the defendant faces up to 29 years in state prison.

Prosecutors have initiated a request for the temporary custody of Weinstein from New Yorkthe first of several steps in the extradition process.

At this time, it is unknown when Weinstein will be transferred to Los Angeles County. Upon his arrival, he will be arraigned on the amended complaint. Once a court date is set, the public will be notified.

Prosecutors also announced today that two cases involving Weinstein were declined for prosecution because the victims did not want to testify against the defendant in this case.

Deputy District Attorney Paul Thompson of the Sex Crimes Division is prosecuting the case.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills police departments and the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation.

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Sexual Assault

LAPD Seeks Additional Human Trafficking Victims of Arrested Pimp

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Photo: flickr

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department’s Operations Valley Bureau-Human Trafficking Task Force is seeking additional victims of human trafficking.

On February 3, 2020, Operations Valley Bureau-Human Trafficking Task Force arrested Christopher Moss, 33-year-old from Dallas, Texas for Human Trafficking.

In February North Hollywood Area Officers responded to a domestic violence radio call. During the officers investigation it was discovered that the victim had been engaging in commercial sex acts at the demand of her trafficker.


Operations Valley Bureau Human Trafficking Task Force assumed the investigation and immediately went into action and was able to provide the victim with advocate services.

This investigation has lead us to working in collaboration with other cities and states who may have an investigative interest in this case.

As the officers continued the human trafficking investigation it was obvious more victims were involved and needed to be located. We are asking for the public’s assistance in locating any additional victims. Detectives believe there are additional victims who have not filed police reports.

The above photograph is a tattoo that was branded onto one of the victims. Often times a human trafficker will brand their victims as a sign of ownership in the pimp culture.

The crown represents royalty and when the victim has earned it, the human trafficker will brand them. This specific tattoo also had the letter ‘D’ and inside is the $ symbol.

Christopher Moss moniker is “Daddy Cash” and the ‘D’ represents Daddy and the $ symbol represents cash.

It is important to note that any victim that comes forward, will not be in any kind of trouble. We have resources available to victims that come forward.

Anyone with additional information regarding Christopher Moss, or anyone who may have been a victim are asked to call Operations Valley Bureau-Human Trafficking Task Force, Detective Cynthia Gonzales at 818-644-8091.

During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org. Emails can be sent to 647tips@lapd.online as well.

Tipsters may also visit www.lapdonline.org, and click on “Anonymous Web Tips” under the “Get Involved-Crime Stoppers” menu to submit an online tip. Lastly, tipsters may also download the “P3 Tips” mobile application and select the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers as their local program.

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