BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kajuan Richardson targeted high school girls. First he sold them marijuana, then persuaded them to sell themselves.

Preying on naivete and emotional vulnerability, Richardson convinced multiple girls, ranging in age from 14 to 17, to become prostitutes. He created advertisements on social media to entice prospective johns.

According to interviews authorities conducted with the girls, prices ranged from $100 for 30 minutes to $240 for two hours, to much more for certain sexual fetishes.

But dreams of easy money soon disappeared, one girl told sheriff’s investigators according to court documents filed in Superior Court. Richardson took the cash. He became angry if you failed to provide what he expected.

The girl, found in a car with Richardson during his arrest in February, cried as she talked about what had become of her life.

“She explained to me that this was not something that she wanted to do and she was not a bad person,” an investigator wrote.

Kajuan Richardson, photo courtesy Kern County District Attorney’s office

Richardson, 26, was found guilty on Monday of three counts of human trafficking of a minor and other charges and faces up to 33 years in prison at his sentencing next month. At the time of his arrest, he was on post-release community supervision for a prior human trafficking conviction in Orange County.

Investigation begins

In October 2021, sheriff’s Detective Megan Hylton-Reed heard from Kern High School District Officer Ryan Calderon about a student with a disturbing story. An interview with the student revealed alleged sexual abuse, but the girl refused to make a pretext phone call to try to get Richardson to incriminate himself, according to heavily-redacted court documents.

Two months later, Calderon told Hylton-Reed about a student who hadn’t been to school in three months and showed her an Instagram account that had “provocative” pictures of the teen in lingerie and smoking marijuana, according to the documents. Calderon said the girl had been seen with a man on campus suspected of selling marijuana and trying to contact other girls.

Hylton-Reed obtained a search warrant for an Instagram account in which a 14-year-old girl and a man later identified as Richardson discuss “setting up ‘dates’ with men, payments, rates, and sexual intercourse with each other,” the reports say. Screenshots show conversations arranging dates and times.

In one case, after the girl talks about arranging an encounter, Richardson says, “OK you can but make him prove he isn’t police,” the reports say.

Hylton-Reed wrote another search warrant, this time for the account with which the 14-year-old was communicating. She sent photos of the man pictured on the account to the Bakersfield Police Department. Officers identified him as Richardson.

The detective learned something else: Richardson had experience in sex trafficking. Officers informed her he was on post-release community supervision for a human trafficking conviction in Orange County.

The girls talk

Further investigation — again with the help of Calderon’s — revealed the type of car Richardson drove and that he sold marijuana to teens through Snapchat, documents said. A teen who was not trafficked but learned about Richardson’s activities told Hylton-Reed buying from him was simple: Message him, and he’ll deliver the marijuana.

Between the discussions on social media accounts and interviews with teens, Hylton-Reed compiled enough evidence for an arrest warrant. Richardson was placed under surveillance and deputies saw him conduct multiple suspected drug transactions outside the Vagabond Inn on Knudsen Drive, according to the documents.

Some of his buyers appeared underage.

An investigator reported seeing Richardson hand something to “two female juveniles who appeared to be extremely young,” the reports say.

On Feb. 14, Richardson was pulled over on Rosedale Highway and arrested. Two girls were with him.

Taken to sheriff’s headquarters, one girl told Hylton-Reed she had only known Richardson a few weeks, meeting him after he messaged her on Instagram to work for him as an “escort.” She said he told her she’d be good at it.

“(The teen) told me she thought she was going to keep the money she made but she explained she had to give her money to (Richardson),” Hylton-Reed wrote in the documents. “(The teen) told me (Richardson) was mad at her because she was not doing what she was supposed to do.”

On Feb. 11, the girl said, she made $800. Richardson didn’t let her keep a cent, she said as she began to cry.

She identified the Instagram accounts she and Richardson used.

The other teen found with Richardson appeared nervous when Hylton-Reed spoke with her, the detective wrote. The girl began crying and Hylton-Reed asked if she was nervous because of the guy she was stopped with. The girl said that was the case, according to the documents.

As she did with the other girl, Hylton-Reed reassured the teen she wasn’t in trouble. The girl spoke through tears as she said she only recently met Richardson through another teen who explained how she makes money for Richardson’s marijuana business through prostitution.

The teen told Hylton-Reed that Richardson met her and the other girl at a park the morning of the arrest, according to the documents. She said she told Richardson she wasn’t comfortable prostituting herself, and he told her she could still make money without having sex with clients, the reports say.

Richardson was taking them to Wendy’s when they were pulled over and arrested, the girl said.

Another girl linked to Richardson told Hylton-Reed she had been prostituting herself for two months, the reports say. She was 16.

The girl said she wasn’t allowed to keep the money but had food, clothing, hair and other expenses paid for, according to the documents. She said she keeps pepper spray on her for protection.

Hylton-Reed told her she knew this wasn’t the life she wanted.

“I’m trying to get out,” the girl said.

Blaming the victims

Prosecutors say Richardson pimped several underage girls and a 20-year-old.

Richardson, however, presented himself as the real victim.

After being confronted with social media messages and a sexually graphic photo of him with a minor, Richardson came up with a series of excuses.

He said the girl in the photo was 19. Hylton-Reed told him she was actually 15.

“She’s 15, wow,” Richardson said according to the documents.

Asked if he raped her, Richardson said, “It’s not rape, you can talk to this girl, you can talk to her right now.” He said he’s not ugly and didn’t need to rape anyone, the reports say.

When Hylton-Reed brought up the messages about prostitution and the prices discussed on his Instagram account, Richardson claimed he wasn’t involved.

“I know I’m not that, (expletive) happens, I’ll be dead (expletive) honest, them girls do what they want to do, they do what they want to do, I’m not in control, I’m not telling them anything about (inaudible),” Richardson said according to the documents. “They do what they wanna do and they just use me, and that’s what I feel is happening right now because I’m here, I shouldn’t be here, and now I feel manipulated and yeah.”

Richardson eventually stopped answering questions.

“(Richardson) stated he knew the questions being asked were going to bury him more,” Hylton-Reed wrote.