On Wednesday, September 23rd, two suspects were in custody on suspicion of human trafficking. The arrests came after an investigation into a report of two missing girls aged 15 and 16. The investigation began in February, and detectives were able to speak to one of the victims, rescuing her on March 10th.
An arrest warrant was issued for one of the suspects, Semaj Kelly of San Bernardino, and he was arrested on Friday, September 25. THe other suspect, Marcus Jones of Los Angeles, was discovered to be in federal custody on drug charges that weren’t related to the human trafficking charges.
Kelly is being charged with one count of human trafficking and is currently being held in lieu of $175,000 bail, though there is no word at this time about any bail for Jones, the other suspect.
Human trafficking is covered under California Penal Code 236.1 PC and is described as:
- Depriving someone of their personal liberty with the intent to obtain forced service from them
- Depriving someone of their personal liberty with the intent to violate pimping and pandering laws, child pornography laws, laws against extortion and blackmail, or other laws concerning commercial sexual activity and the abuse of minors
- Persuading or trying to persuade someone into engaging in a commercial sex act with the intent to violate the same laws
By definition, human trafficking does not have to involve sex or sex crimes. A person who denies someone their personal liberty to clean their home, wash their car, or some other reason could still face human trafficking charges if caught.
Under California Law, human trafficking is always a felony. Trafficking people in an attempt to obtain forced services carries the potential sentence of 5, 8, or 12 years in California state prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
Trafficking people in an attempt to commit a crime related to a commercial sex act, child pornography, or extortion faces the potential sentences of 8, 14, or 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Also, the defendant will be required to register as a sex offender.
If the suspect is charged with persuading a minor to engage in a commercial sex act carries the potential sentences of 5 to 12 years in prison, or 15 years to life if the jury feels the defendant use force, fear, or threat of injury to the victim. Additional penalties include a fine of up to $500,000 and the requirement to register as a sex offender.