Three victims of human trafficking, including a 15-year-old, have been rescued and two suspects have been arrested for allegedly forcing the three females into prostitution.
The rescues and arrests were announced Sunday by the Anaheim PD following a three-day, around-the-clock investigation by APD officials and other members of the multi-agency Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.
In custody are Ariel Guizar, 35, of San Jose, and Araceli Mendoza, 23, also of San Jose.
Both were arrested late Thursday at a hotel in Anaheim, according to a news release issued Sunday, Feb. 14.
The investigation began Wednesday, Feb. 10 when the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force received information from concerned family members regarding a 15-year-old female runaway from Los Angeles County who was being trafficked in Anaheim, according to the news release.
The task force launched an investigation that took members of the team throughout Southern and Central California in search of the victim. The Orange County task force received assistance from the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, and the Anaheim Police Department, the news release said.
Thursday afternoon, members of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force located the 15-year-old victim in Bellflower. During the police interview, she relayed “horrific” details about being the victim of human trafficking, according to the news release.
The victim identified at least two other young female victims, all three of whom were trafficked throughout Southern California by their captor, according to the news release.
The trafficker used threats of violence and a handgun to keep the victims working for him, the news release said.
Late Thursday evening, officers located the suspect’s vehicle parked at a hotel in Anaheim. A surveillance and subsequent operation led to the arrests of Guizar and Mendoza. Two additional female victims, both 19, were located in the hotel room, the news release said.
Both suspects were booked at the Orange County Jail for human trafficking of a minor and weapon violations. Guizar is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and Mendoza’s bail was set at $250,000.
Representatives from the Salvation Army Victim Advocates responded and made contact with the female victims. They will provide services and make arrangements to have them returned to their home cities.
“The three-day long investigation illustrates the priority the OCHTTF places on rescuing victims of human trafficking, especially when it involves juveniles,” the news release said. “It also highlights the coordinated effort of law enforcement agencies throughout the state, as well as our federal law enforcement partners when it comes to rescuing juveniles victimized by human traffickers.”
Task force officials also credited the Orange County District Attorney’s office for its aggressive enforcement of suspects arrested on suspicion of committing human trafficking-related crimes.
The OCHTTF was formed in August 2014 and is a collaborative effort between the Anaheim Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Irvine Police Department, Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Ana Police Department.