Eight suspects were indicted for the sex trafficking of seven teenage girls in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. Except for one of them, the teenage girls were all younger than 18 years old, lured into a life on the streets with promises of glamour.
"Things as simple as getting your hair done, getting your nails done, going shopping," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Sheth.
Federal authorities say 27-year-old Paul Edward Bell of Lynwood was the main "pimp" in a prostitution ring connected to the Rollin 60s Crips street gang out of South Los Angeles.
The 18-count federal indictment filed Thursday alleges that Bell and seven other suspects, four of them women, including Javiya Brooks, groomed young girls in Riverside County high schools, turning them to prostitution on the streets of Compton, specifically along Long Beach Boulevard, which authorities say has long been plagued by prostitution.
The indictment also alleges the four pimps used "force, threats of force, fraud and coercion" to get the victims to engage in commercial sex.
"These arrests and charges hopefully will send a message not only to the community of our intent to be responsive to the needs of the district, but to these so-called pimps and hustlers that we're watching you," said Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney, Central District of California.
The FBI has practiced similar prostitution crackdowns in other states, part of the FBI's Innocence Lost National Initiative.
Thursday's indictment and arrests are the result of a year-and-a-half-long joint investigation involving the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Riverside Police and federal agents.
"Parents need to express their love and their nurturing for young people, especially for little girls, because if they don't get it at home, the first crook that pays them any attention will hook them," said Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz.