You hear about pimps and underage girls, but they rarely seem to come out of the shadows.
This week the LAPD was shining a spotlight on the war against sex trafficking. Cops say Charles Bland, a 26-year-old from Lancaster, used social media to recruit a teenager before abusing, assaulting and pimping the 14-year-old girl from Riverside. Miraculously, she got fed up with his alleged violence walked away:
Her bravery and willingness to bring her story to police led to Bland's conviction this week on charges of sexual assault and pimping of a minor under the age of 15, the department says.
Her report to cops in North Hollywood started an 18-month investigation into Bland involving the department's Human Trafficking Unit, police say.
According to the department:
The investigation revealed that during the month of September 2011, Bland, using various social media sites, recruited the survivor, while she was still in Riverside, to meet him in the San Fernando Valley. Once Bland met with her, he took her to his home in Lancaster. Over a period of three weeks, Bland, on multiple occasions, sexually assaulted the survivor. He then forced the young survivor to work for him as a prostitute, from Pomona to Los Angeles, to the San Fernando Valley.
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The last straw was a beating she allegedly took for failing to bring him enough cash from her work on the streets: The LAPD states that the suspect "stripped the survivor naked and proceeded to beat her with a leather belt and its belt buckle."
That inspired the girl to go to the authorities.
Bland, a gang member, was sentenced to six years behind bars and must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.