BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Law enforcement uncovered a human trafficking ring close to home. It’s a devastating crime that affects thousands in Kern County every year. Law enforcement descended on the Desert Star Motel in Bakersfield at about 7 a.m. this morning to break up a crime ring targeting some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Behind the flashing lights and yellow tape on Union Avenue, police find an unsettling scene.
“The activity this morning here at this motel is the result of a joint investigation between local, state and federal partners into some human trafficking at this location,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry.
Bakersfield police partnered with Homeland Security and the FBI, deploying K-9 units and armored vehicles. Authorities say this sting is years in the making.
“I really want to commend members of the Bakersfield Police Department and federal agents for working the last two years to bring down this motel, which is in essence a modern-day brothel,” said Cynthia Zimmer, Kern County District Attorney.
Three suspects are in custody according to a press release from the Bakersfield Police Department. 43-year-old Curtis Moore of Bakersfield was arrested for felony firearm possession and participating in a street gang. The other two suspects face federal charges related to human trafficking. Their exact charges and identities have not been released.
Officers say they also found three illegal firearms, and confirm the Jan. 15 arrest of Javonne Lewis is related to this case. Human trafficking experts say this problem isn’t new.
“We’ve been down on Union Avenue for 12 years now,” said Doug Bennett, the Founder of Magdalene Hope, a local organization that fights human trafficking. “Our studies show there are 750 to 1,000 women that are being sold in Bakersfield over the course of a month. Eight out of ten of them are not out there by choice, but someone is actually profiting off them.”
Experts say many victims of sex trafficking are too young to drive a car.
“The average age that a girl enters into human trafficking is 11 to 13 years old,” said Bennett.
Bakersfield Police say the investigation into the motel is ongoing, and law enforcement expects more charges in the coming days.