Winton, CA – On February 17, 2021, 23-year-old Deyaneira Sabrina Fernandez from Winton CA. was arrested on several human trafficking charges. This investigation started back in November 2020 when Merced County Sheriff’s Detective Martha Martinez received information about Fernandez “pimping” a 17-year-old female juvenile from Madera.
During the investigation, Detective Martinez learned Fernandez was pimping and pandering the 17-year-old juvenile throughout the state of California as far back as September 2020.
Fernandez was arrested and booked into the Merced County Jail on several charges of “pimping” and “pandering” a juvenile. This case has been sent to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide – including right here in Merced County. It can happen in any community and victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises of well-paying jobs or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking situations.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save a life. Here are some common indicators to help recognize human trafficking.
• Does the person appear disconnected from family, friends, community organizations, or houses of worship?
• Has a child stopped attending school?
• Has the person had a sudden or dramatic change in behavior?
• Is a juvenile engaged in commercial sex acts?
• Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
• Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
• Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
• Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
• Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
• Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
• Is the person living in unsuitable conditions?
• Does the person lack personal possessions and appear not to have a stable living situation?
• Does the person have freedom of movement? Can the person freely leave where they live? Are there unreasonable security measures?
Not all indicators listed above are present in every human trafficking situation, and the presence or absence of any of the indicators is not necessarily proof of human trafficking. The safety of the public, as well as the victim, is paramount. Do not attempt to confront a suspected trafficker directly or alert a victim to any suspicions. It is up to law enforcement to investigate suspected cases of human trafficking.
If you suspect someone to be the victim of human trafficking, please contact your local law enforcement agency.