5 arrested in human trafficking ring across Central, Southern California

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A Southern California human trafficking ring was broken up. The victims were Chinese women, forced into a life of prostitution. (KABC)

Investigators are calling it modern slavery.

A taskforce of local, state and federal agencies assembled by the Ventura County Sheriff's Department uncovered an elaborate network that allegedly delivered millions of dollars in wire transfers to China.

The business was human trafficking. Women from Fresno to San Diego were forced to have sex with 20 to 30 men a day.

The probe started with the cooperation of upscale motels in Camarillo. Managers reported suspicious activity to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.

For six months, detectives followed the money trail to the secret headquarters in San Gabriel. They allege Dae Phong Hu acted as a dispatcher, sending women to various hotels in a nine county areas, where they would service clients seven days a week.

"The victims consistently incurred debt. They were forced to pay their drivers, forced to pay for their food, forced to pay for the hotel room. That's one of the ways there were kept captive - is continuing to amass a huge debt that they could not pay off," says Ventura County Undersheriff Gary Pentis.

To lure in clients, the conspirators placed salacious ads on Backpage.com. Men of all ages and ethnicities responded.

The victims were Chinese women unable to escape. Some clients beat them.

One alleged conspirator took desperate action to avoid capture as Ventura County's taskforce surrounded the San Gabriel hub.

Pentis says they knocked on the door of the woman who coordinated the operation from her condo. Instead of answering the door, she gathered key evidence and tried to escape, jumping from a third floor window and breaking her leg.

"What she was fleeing with were the ledgers of the operation, a bagful of cellphones used to communicate with the women, and quite a large amount of cash," said the undersheriff.

Bail for the five alleged conspirators is set at $5 million each. The top tier of this operation was shutdown for good.

There are 28 victims in detention. Many are asking for asylum in the U.S.
Related Topics:
newsHuman Traffickingsexual assaultarrestLos Angeles CountySouthern CaliforniaSan GabrielVentura County
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