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39 Victims Rescued, 450 Arrested In Statewide Human Trafficking Operation

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Dozens of human trafficking victims, including 13 children, were rescued and hundreds were arrested in a statewide operation, which included Los Angeles County.  

 “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild,” resulted in 450 arrests, 145 of which were in L.A. County, and the rescue of 39 victims between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

“The goal of the operation was simply to rescue and recover victims of human trafficking and to arrest their traffickers or individuals who have exploited them,” said LAPD Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher in a press conference on Thursday.

A total of 13 children were rescued, including a 15-year-old girl reported missing from Nevada who was found in San Luis Obispo County, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Captain Michael Hannemann.

The seventh annual enforcement operation was conducted by about 100 participating federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and task-forces from across California, according to the LASD.

In addition to the law enforcement agencies, the operation also included the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Saving Innocence and Zoe International.

“Operation Reclaim and Rebuild focused on rescuing victims of sexual slavery and human trafficking, providing victims with much-needed services, identifying and arresting their captors, seeking successful prosecutions, and disrupting the demand for vulnerable victims by targeting their customers,” said Sheriff’s officials.  

 Investigators focused enforcement operations wherever the trafficking of human beings took place, from confronting the reality of sidewalk prostitution by conducting demand operations, to challenging the virtual reality of the cyber world where traffickers believe they can operate anonymously using the internet. 

“The internet furnishes a vast variety of opportunities for traffickers, but with the experience of specially-trained cyber detectives who posed as vulnerable teenagers and interacted with suspects on social media, traffickers and customers who were anxious to exploit found their plans foiled,” said Sheriff’s officials. 

Victims encountered during enforcement efforts were cared for by personnel from various Department of Children and Family Services Agencies and victim service providers in each county.  

 “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and our partners stand with each victim of this heinous crime.  You are the focus of this endeavor.  We are here for you.  We are here to help you reclaim your freedom from the binds of sex trafficking, and to provide you the support and tools to rebuild your lives,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

In Los Angeles County, CAST, Saving Innocence, Zoe International, and Journey Out coordinated the emergency services response for victim care and collaborated with similar, non-governmental victim service organizations throughout the state.

“Operation Reclaim and Rebuild is a state-wide operation which displays the mutual commitment of California law enforcement, social service agencies, and victim service providers in the fight to end sex trafficking,” Hannemann said.  “The L.A. Regional Human Trafficking Task Force is an example of how individual entities can be far more effective, when they join together in a shared mission.”

Crime

Chiropractors Charged In $2.5 Million Auto Insurance Fraud, Kickback Scheme

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Los Angeles Courtroom-2

A dozen chiropractors have been charged in a $2.5 million insurance fraud and illegal kickback scheme involving automobile collision medical claims.

The scheme’s alleged ringleader, Yury Chernega, 49, of Studio City, faces four counts each of the aforementioned charges as well as one count of money laundering, according to Pamela Johnson, spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The charges include allegations of taking more than $500,000 from about 30 insurance companies through fraud and embezzlement.

“Defrauding insurance companies is a serious crime that costs all of us in the form of higher premiums,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “We will continue to work with local, state and federal regulators to protect consumers from financial crimes.”

Prosecutors have charged the defendants with nine felony counts, including insurance fraud and participating in patient referral rebates when licensed in the healing arts or as a chiropractor, according to the D.A.’s Office. 

Three other San Fernando Valley residents were arrested in connection to the scheme including Bruce Householder, of Burbank, Alexander Royzman, of Granda Hills, and Payam Shayan, of Tarzana.

Canyon Country resident Luzan Madain was also charged with the alleged fraud, according to prosecutors. 

From 2014 through 2019, Chernega allegedly offered to refer new patients to other chiropractors in return for an illegal referral fee, through which he collected about $2.5 million, prosecutors said. The patients allegedly had been involved in automobile collisions. 

The defendants also are accused of filing false claims for medical services they never provided. The case stems from an ongoing case involving Chernega and 14 additional chiropractors filed in 2019. 

The case remains under investigation by the District Attorney’s Auto Insurance Fraud Division and Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the California Department of Insurance, the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Arraignment for all but one defendant has been scheduled for June 29 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Arraignment for Royzman is expected to take place the following week. 

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Crime

Tujunga Man Charged With Domestic Violence Kidnapping, Murder Of Good Samaritan

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North Hollywood Shooting Kidnapping
Devon Miller / The Valley Post

A Tujunga man has been charged with kidnapping his ex-girlfriend and fatally shooting a man who tried to intervene in North Hollywood. 

Shane Winfield Rayment, 37, faces one felony count each of murder, kidnapping, criminal threats, injuring a girlfriend, first-degree residential burglary with person present and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. 

“It’s especially tragic when a good Samaritan becomes a victim,” Gascón said in a statement.  “I send my heartfelt condolences to his family. Mr. Fletes will always be remembered for his heroic actions on behalf of another.”

On June 6, Rayment went to the North Hollywood home where his ex-girlfriend was staying and struggled with her when Roberto Conjeo Fletes attempted to intervene, prosecutors said. Rayment is accused of fatally shooting Fletes, 42, before fleeing with her. 

The woman was found on June 8 during a traffic stop in Hemet and Rayment was arrested. 

Hemet officers conducted a felony traffic stop and took Rayment into custody without incident.  

“The victim of the kidnapping, Jenny Downes, was discovered in the vehicle, battered and bruised, but alive,” investigators said.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

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Crime

Detectives Investigating Deadly Sun Valley Shooting

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Detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Valley Bureau Homicide are investigating a fatal Sun Valley shooting.

On June 9, about 11 p.m., LAPD Foothill patrol officers responded to the report of an assault with a deadly weapon on the 7900 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Sun Valley, according to the department in a statement.

Moments later, a second radio call was received just a few blocks down Laurel Canyon Boulevard for a traffic collision involving a 2021 Land Rover.

The preliminary investigation revealed that the victim was involved in a dispute that ended in a shooting. 

The victim drove away from the scene and collided with parked vehicles on the 7600 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, according to detectives. 

Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics responded and transported the victim to a local hospital where he died during surgery.   

The victim is described as a 43-year-old, male from Los Angeles. The identity has not been released pending notification of next of kin.

As of Thursday, there are no suspects identified, according to the LAPD.

Anyone with additional information is urged to call Detective Steve Castro, Valley Bureau Homicide, at (818) 374-1925.  During non-business hours, or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-527-3247.  

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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