The Watch Dog: San Bernardino Cracks Down on Human Trafficking
By Derek Obregon
Kids do not know what they are doing, and some people take advantage of this when they are at their most vulnerable state.
Paul Edward Bell, a 29-year-old alleged member of a Los Angeles street gang admitted in a federal court that in 2011, he recruited and harbored four girls between 15 and 17 who were forced to work as prostitutes. If that wasn’t bad enough, he physically abused one of the victims, “for not performing as a prostitute and acting up,” according to documents in the U.S. District Court in Riverside.
It no doubt left these girls traumatized, both physically and psychologically, and that kind of abuse will last a lifetime. They were all residents from the San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The investigation and trial was brought about by the Inland Child Exploitation/Prostitution Task Force. It is comprised from FBI, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino, Pomona, Ontario and Riverside police departments.
According to Bill Lewis, the assistant director if the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, “The defendants in this case lured minor victims from school with false promises of a glamorous lifestyle only to sexually exploit and abuse them in furtherance of the gang, and for their own financial gain.”
District Judge Virginia A. Phillips has until March 31 to determine whether or not to accept the 30-year plea agreement for Bell and sentence him.
This message comes in January, and January is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It is sad that human trafficking is such a problem that we have a month devoted to raising awareness about it.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office donated $15,000 of unclaimed restitution money from the DA’s victim aid account to Rachel’s House, a group home in San Bernardino where victims can go to escape the clutches of human trafficking without fear of violent reprisal from their pimps. It is run by pastor Paula Daniels, a human rights activist.
The home is doing its part at helping victims get back on their feet, but human trafficking still remains a problem because it is a low-risk and high-reward crime for surrounding gangs.
A strong message to take away from this story comes from District Attorney Mike Ramos, who will not stand for human trafficking in his town.
“We are doing an excellent job prosecuting the pimps who prey upon our young children as well as letting the ‘Johns’ know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in San Bernardino County.”