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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

Burbank Police Seeking Additional Victims Of Scammer

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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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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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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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