Recent stats about a wave of sex trafficking in the United States have come across as far-fetched if not overblown.
But on Monday federal authorities said they caught a man with three teen girls -- including a 15- and 16-year-old -- from Texas that he allegedly intended to put on the streets in Orange County for prostitution. He already had another teen working the business, they claim.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in L.A. announced that Santa Ana resident Samuel Martinez Gonzalez, 26, was charged this morning with "transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity."
He was arrested Friday, and the teens were "rescued," after a relative of one of victims contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to say the teens were gone and might be in O.C.
Two of the teens were found in an Orange County motel room. Another was found with the suspect, authorities said. They were put into protective custody.
The mother of the other two teens gave authorities a mobile phone number for Martinez. Federal agents, with the help of O.C. sheriff's deputies and other law enforcers, tracked Martinez down Friday night "as he walked down Elk Lane near Interstate 5 in Santa Ana," according to a U.S. Attorney's statement.
An affidavit alleges that Martinez invited one of the teens to "go to the beach," apparently in California. But he allegedly made a stop where dresses and high heels were purchased for a "job" they would be performing.
The suspect is alleged to have already employed a fourth teen in prostitution. She was subsequently taken in by a family member, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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U.S. Attorney in L.A. André Birotte Jr:
Predators who sexually exploit young people should realize that their unspeakable acts will not go unpunished. Child exploitation crimes are among the most important cases we prosecute, and we will spare no effort in prosecuting criminals who seek to take advantage of young victims.
Martinez was due in federal court today. He faces a maximum of life in prison if he's convicted. The minimum sentence is 10 years behind bars.