On January 25th, 26th, and 27th, Officers of the Merced Police Department DART and GVSU Team conducted undercover operations in support of a State wide Law Enforcement combined operation targeting those involved in Human Trafficking and Prostitution. (Reference Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department Press Release)

Merced Police Department operations conducted on January 25th and 26th included contacting online prostitution advertisements and arranging to purchase sexual acts from commercial sex workers in an attempt to determine if the workers were victims of Human Trafficking. Operations targeted advertisements where workers appeared underage or whose faces were not shown or obscured.

Six sex workers arrived at agreed upon locations and were detained to determine their victim status. Officers also conducted interviews to determine if the workers were working with Pimps who control and profit from the workers activities. Each worker contacted was interviewed and provided counseling and other services in an attempt to offer support to leave the commercial sex industry.

Through interviews and investigations it was determined that two suspects, Jake Lebeaux and Phillip Victor Garcia, were Pimping, Pandering, and Supervising Prostitutes that were detained during the operations. LeBeaux and Garcia were arrested and booked for the charges. The investigation into other pimps is ongoing as investigators determined the possibility of other suspects involved with pimping the sex workers contacted.

The operation on January 27th focused on arresting people who engage in prostitution by purchasing sex acts through online advertisements. The Merced Police Department DART Team with the assistance of the MPD GVSU (Gang Violence Suppression Unit) and the Fresno Office of the FBI posted online advertisements on known commercial sex web sites.

When contacted through the number posted online, officers negotiated to perform sex acts for money, and arrested the subjects when they arrived to engage in prostitution.
Officers arrested seven men David Nason (33), Reginald Chandra (32), Juan Villanueva (37), Kellen Cheadle (27), Kenady Sims (33), Armando Valencia (37) and Carlos Molina (34) for solicitation of prostitution and all were given citations for the violations and released.

Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding these cases to contact Officer Rinder at (209) 385-7773, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.

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