Prostitution bust at Bakersfield hotel part of Homeland Security investigation

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A search warrant was issued for a Bakersfield hotel in connection with a nationwide Homeland Security investigation into a sex trafficking organization that used the recently shut down Backpage.com to facilitate prostitution, according to court documents. 

A Bakersfield Police Department detective – with the help of a Homeland Security agent – contacted the organization to arrange for two separate encounters on March 28 and April 9 at the Travelodge on Oak Street, where he received two massages from a woman, according to the search warrant issued by Judge Michael Bush.  

Though he only received a massage on both occasions, lasting about 15 minutes and costing $160 for each session, he confirmed with the woman that she was a prostitute, and she “told [him] she wanted to have sex and kept urging [him] to have sex with her,” the detective says in his affidavit. 

The same day as the detective’s last visit, he returned to the hotel room with a search warrant and retrieved $176 in cash. 

BPD has not said if any arrests were made. 

Homeland Security specified that the women involved in the organization were “willing participants… for the purpose of financial gain,” according to the search warrant. 

This operation was part of a national effort from the Department of Homeland Security, and occurred three days before Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and three counts of money laundering, agreeing to help prosecutors in their ongoing case against Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin. 

Backpage.com, referred to as “an online brothel” by federal authorities, was shut down by the FBI April 6. 

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