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33 Missing Children Rescued After Human Trafficking Operation In Los Angeles

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FBI Human Trafficking Operation Los Angels
Photo Courtesy of the FBI

Over two dozen agencies partnered in “Operation Lost Angels,” an initiative that culminated in the recovery of 33 missing children, FBI officials announced Friday.

The operation started on Jan. 11, during Human Trafficking Awareness Month, with the FBI working with the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and more than two dozen law enforcement and non-governmental partners to identify, locate, and recover missing children, particularly those who have been or were suspected of being sexually exploited and/or trafficked, accoridng to the agency.

Of the 33 children recovered, eight were being sexually exploited at the time of recovery. Two were recovered multiple times during the operation while on the “track,” a common term used to describe a known location for commercial sex trafficking.

“It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud, or coercion,” FBI officials said. “This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”

Several other victims located had been sexually exploited in the past and were considered vulnerable missing children prior to their recovery. Additionally, the operation resulted in the arrest on state charges of one suspected human trafficker and the opening of multiple investigations. Some of the minor victims were arrested for probation violations, robbery, or other misdemeanors. One child was a victim of a noncustodial parental kidnapping.

The FBI caseload for both sex and labor trafficking-related crimes has increased significantly in the past several years. As of November 2020, there were more than 1,800 pending trafficking investigations, including those involving minors exploited through commercial sex trafficking.

“The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims,” said Assistant FBI Director Kristi K. Johnson in a statement. “While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”

Multiple teams were assembled for this operation which were comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the California Department of Child & Family Services, and nongovernmental victim advocacy organizations.

“Human trafficking is a pervasive and insidious crime that threatens the safety of our young people, who are the future of our communities,” said Michel Moore, chief of the Los Angeles Police Department in a statement. “We can only begin to take back the future of our youth with the strong partnerships forged between outstanding service providers and law enforcement.”

In addition to recovering child victims who are missing or engaged in commercial sex trafficking or who are otherwise being exploited, the FBI and our partners provide much-needed resources to victims to ensure that their short- and long-term needs are met. Resources may include immediate medical requirements; legal services; housing; employment; education; job training; and childcare, among others.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, “Collaboration with our law enforcement partners is key to ending the vicious cycle of modern-day slavery. I’m committed to doing everything we can to stop human trafficking.”

Anyone who believes they may be victims of human trafficking may call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline (NHTRC) at 888-373-7888 or visit here. The NHTRC is a national, confidential, toll-free hotline, with specialists available to answer calls at all times.

Those who wish to report incidents of suspected human trafficking may call their local FBI office or local police department. For more information about the FBI’s Human Trafficking investigations, visit here.

Crime

Burbank Police Seeking Additional Victims Of Scammer

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Burbank Police Crime

The Burbank Police Department (BPD) detectives are seeking additional possible victims of a suspect who scammed multiple bank customers.

On May 24, a victim came to the BPD to report a check fraud scam who had been approached by the suspect in the Logix Federal Credit Union parking lot on Hollywood Way, according to Sgt. Emil Brimway, spokesperson for the department.

The suspect, Gevorg Adoyan, 29, of North Hollywood, explained he had reached his cash-out limit and asked the victim to negotiate a check for him so that he could gamble at a casino.

Adoyan offered the victim a percentage of the check-in exchange for his assistance.

The victim agreed to complete the transaction and deposited the check into his account. The victim then withdrew cash from his account and gave it to the suspect. The negotiated check was later returned as fraudulent.

Through their investigation, detectives learned of 11 additional victims who were scammed by the same suspect at the same location.

A search warrant was executed at Adoyan’s residence where detectives recovered additional fraudulent checks, according to Brimway.

Adoyan was arrested and booked for forgery and grand theft, according to investigators.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 12 counts of theft by false pretenses against Adoyan and was he was arraigned on July 14.

Detectives believe Adoyan may have scammed additional victims. The BPD is asking any additional victims or anyone with information about these incidents to contact the Burbank Police Department Investigations Division at (818) 238-3210.

The suspect, Gevorg Adoyan, who was arrested for allegedly scamming victims outside a Burbank credit union. Photo Courtesy of the BPD.
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Crime

Woman Killed After Van Nuys Stabbing, Suspect Arrested

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Crime LAPD Slider

A woman was killed after a Van Nuys stabbing Wednesday morning with one suspect taken into custody.

Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, officers responded to the 17300 block of Matilija Avenue in Van Nuys for the report of a possible homicide according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

When officers arrived, they were directed to a nearby house on the 13800 block of Valerio Street, where a body with multiple stab wounds, according to detectives.

The victim, identified as 53-year-old Ana Guardado, was declared dead at the scene, police said. 

After further investigation, detectives arrested Jose Sierra, 49, for murder, according to the LAPD.

As of Wednesday, the motive of the incident is unknown, according to investigators.

Sierra was booked at Van Nuys Jail with a $2,000,000 bail.     

Anyone with additional information is asked to call Valley Bureau Homicide Division, Detectives R. Secor or S. Kim at (213) 216-0171.

Those wishing to remain anonymous should call the L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go directly here.

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Over $1 Billion In Marijuana Plants Seized In Antelope Valley Drug Bust

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Antelope Valley Marijuana Bust 1
Photo Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Over $1 billion of marijuana was seized in an Antelope Valley drug bust last month — the largest illegal cannabis enforcement operation in Los Angeles County history.

The joint operation on June 8 resulted in a total of approximately 373,000 plants and 33,480 pounds of harvested marijuana, worth an estimated street value of $1.193 billion, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

“What we want to do is send a clear and loud message to the cartels and anyone doing illegal operations in the High Desert, your days are over and we’re coming for you,” Villanueva said Tuesday.

In 2020, there were an estimated 150 illegal cannabis operations in the Antelope Valley, growing to over 500 in 2021, a majority of which are connected to drug cartels, according to the sheriff.

After receiving numerous complaints from residents, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department took action, partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), California Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as several local law enforcement agencies.

Cartel members were threatening residents and stealing millions of gallons of water from the already limited supply in the desert, according to Villanueva.

Last month, over 400 personnel in the joint operation served dozens of search warrants at 200 locations across the High Desert.

At the end of the 10-day operation, a total of 131 people were arrested. In addition, 33 firearms $20,000 in cash and several vehicles were seized. 

The number of greenhouses at each grow varied from eight to 15. The largest site, which is believed to be the largest illegal cannabis operation in L.A. County, had 74 grow tents spanning over 10 acres.

Chloe Hakim, an environmental scientist for Fish and Wildlife, said illegal pesticides and fertilizers have seeped into streams and groundwater in the area. 

Two bears were found dead in the area of the grows, which law enforcement officials attribute to the use of the pesticides. 

See Related: Cartel-Operated Marijuana Grows Taken Down In Antelope Valley As Part Of ‘Massive’ Joint Operation

There has also been an increase in violence in connection to the operations, including two murders, according to Villanueva.

“Violent crime is part of the trade for the cartels and has been associated with these grows,” he said. “It was our obligation to put a stop to this.”

Congressman Mike Garcia surveyed the grows from a helicopter a month before the bust, and hosted a town hall with community members from Pearblossom. 

“The testimonies that we heard from those local residents were absolutely tragic. They were threatened on a daily basis from cartel members and bad actors,” Garcia said.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger is working toward policies to eradicate the illegal operations, that are “plaguing the Antelope Valley and has the potential to spread throughout Los Angeles County.”

“What began as water theft, has exploited to become the infiltration of organized crime groups in the Antelope Valley who are operating internationally,” Barger said.

The supervisor has authored several motions to increase enforcement efforts on both illegal grows and unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. 

Villanueva said operations are going to continue in the coming months, to further ensure the eradication of illegal cannabis grows in the Antelope Valley. 

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