LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A 22-year-old Long Beach man and his mother were charged today in federal court with working together to prostitute a local runaway, beginning when the girl was 15.
Joshua Jerome Davis and Sharilyn Kae Anderson, 45, are charged in a five-count indictment with child sex trafficking, coercion and enticement of a minor, transporting a minor and aiding and abetting.
The indictment also charges mother and son with prostituting a second victim, an adult, through the use of force, fraud and coercion.
“The allegations in this case — a mother and son teamed up to exploit and victimize teenagers — are particularly appalling,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. “Those engaged in this manipulative and abusive conduct need to know that law enforcement in Southern California has joined forces to combat this form of modern-day slavery.”
Anderson was arrested Wednesday by Long Beach Police Department vice detectives and special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations based upon a previously filed criminal complaint.
Anderson was scheduled to make her initial court appearance this afternoon, while Davis has a detention hearing scheduled for next Wednesday.
At the time of Davis’ Aug. 8 arrest in North Las Vegas, investigators located and rescued the now-17-year-old alleged victim, who was with Anderson, authorities said. She has been placed in a shelter.
Long Beach police detectives initially opened the investigation last year after the teen’s father reported her missing.
The ensuing probe uncovered evidence that Davis, assisted and counseled by his mother, had prostituted the victim at several hotels in Southern California and transported her across state lines to Nevada to engage in commercial sex in Las Vegas casinos, federal prosecutors allege.
According to court documents, Davis first communicated with the girl on Facebook in 2010, when she was 14, leading to an initial in-person meeting in December 2011.
Several months later, the teen allegedly created an account on a website commonly used to promote prostitution and escort services, subsequently telling investigators she paid Davis about 30 percent of the proceeds she earned from commercial sex.
Initially, the girl claimed Davis believed she was 19, but when confronted by investigators with a text message from the defendant indicating he knew she was not yet 18, she recanted and said Davis believed she was 17, prosecutors said.
“Unfortunately, it’s all too common for minors involved in prostitution who are under duress to attempt to shield their pimps from law enforcement by withholding or minimizing information regarding the pimp’s knowledge and control over the minor’s activities,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
“The coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable,” he said.
“HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners to bring those engaged in the sexual exploitation of juveniles to justice. We owe it to these underage victims who are being robbed of their youth and their innocence.”
Court documents allege Anderson helped facilitate the prostitution scheme by transporting the teenager and a second victim to hotels to engage in prostitution when her son was unavailable. Anderson also made threats to and assaulted the second victim to intimidate the woman to continue making money for her son by prostituting, according to prosecutors.
Davis was initially arrested April 23 and booked into the Long Beach City Jail on state pandering and human trafficking violations.
According to a case affidavit, Davis told investigators then that he obtained a hotel room for the teenage alleged victim in Las Vegas “out of the goodness of his heart.” After posting bond in the state case, investigators allege Davis absconded to the Las Vegas area, where he reunited with the teen and resumed his commercial sex activities.
Authorities believe there may be additional unidentified victims. Anyone with information about the case was urged to call HSI’s toll-free tip line at (866) 347-2423.
The charge of sex trafficking of a child by force carries a sentence of up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years.