ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY PRESS RELEASE
Date: January 7, 2016
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) convicted four men in October, November, and December 2015 of agreeing to engage in prostitution or loitering with the intent to commit prostitution. The defendants in these cases approached a woman whom they believed to be a prostitute, or loitered in areas known for prostitution and human trafficking in Orange County. Each of the defendants below agreed to engage in prostitution or loitered with the intent to engage in prostitution with a woman and were subsequently arrested by law enforcement.
- Placido Gomez Martinez, 46, Santa Ana – Pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution. Twenty days of Caltrans in lieu of jail, three years informal probation, and must submit to AIDS testing and education.
- Miguel Angel Mejia, 35, Santa Ana – Pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution and one misdemeanor count of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution. Three years informal probation, must submit to AIDS testing and education, and provide a DNA sample.
- Armen Syren Rostomian, 46, Fountain Valley – Pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution. Perform 100 hours of community service, three years informal probation, and submit to AIDS testing and education.
- Augustin Vargas Silva Jr., 30, Santa Ana – Pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution. Ten days of Caltrans in lieu of jail, three years informal probation, submit to AIDS testing and education, and provide a DNA sample.
The OCDA places the booking photos when available and conviction details of defendants on the sex purchasers section of the OCDA’s website, and can be found at the following link: http://orangecountyda.org/media/sexpurchasers.asp.
Defendants seeking to be removed from the OCDA website must complete and submit a form available online which can be found under the sex purchasers section of the OCDA website or at the following link: http://orangecountyda.org/documents/SexPurchaserRemovalRequestForm.pdf.
Members of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) and the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Office work proactively to protect women and minors from falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation. This case was investigated by OCHTTF, a partnership between Anaheim Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Huntington Beach Police Department, Irvine Police Department, OCDA, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and community and non-profit partners.
Deputy District Attorney Jim Bilek of the HEAT Unit prosecuted these cases.
Proposition 35 and HEAT
In November 2012, California’s anti-human trafficking Proposition 35 (Prop 35) was enacted in California with 81 percent of the vote, and over 82 percent of the vote in Orange County, to increase the penalty for human trafficking, particularly in cases involving the trafficking of a minor by force.
A component of the OCHTTF is the OCDA’s Human Exploitation And Trafficking (HEAT) Unit, which targets perpetrators who sexually exploit and traffic women and underage girls for financial gain, including pimps, panderers, and human traffickers. The HEAT Unit uses a tactical plan called PERP: Prosecution, to bring justice for victims of human trafficking and hold perpetrators responsible using Prop 35; Education, to provide law enforcement training to properly handle human trafficking and pandering cases; Resources from public-private partnerships to raise public awareness about human trafficking and provide assistance to the victims; and Publicity, to inform the public and send a message to human traffickers that this crime cannot be perpetrated without suffering severe consequences.
Under the law, human trafficking is described as depriving or violating the personal liberty of another person with the intent to effect a violation of pimping or pandering. Pimping is described as knowingly deriving financial support in whole or in part from the proceeds of prostitution. Pandering is the act of persuading or procuring an individual to become a prostitute, or procuring and/or arranging for a person work in a house of prostitution.
Penal Code Section 236.1 defines:
(1) “Coercion” includes any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process; debt bondage; or providing and facilitating the possession of any controlled substance to a person with the intent to impair the person’s judgment.
(2) “Commercial sex act” means sexual conduct on account of which anything of value is given or received by any person.
(3) “Deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another” includes substantial and sustained restriction of another’s liberty accomplished through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person receiving or apprehending the threat reasonably believes that it is likely that the person making the threat would carry it out.
(4) “Duress” includes a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution sufficient to cause a reasonable person to acquiesce in or perform an act which he or she would otherwise not have submitted to or performed; a direct or implied threat to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim; or knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim.
(5) “Forced labor or services” means labor or services that are performed or provided by a person and are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, duress, or coercion, or equivalent conduct that would reasonably overbear the will of the person.
(6) “Great bodily injury” means a significant or substantial physical injury.
(7) “Minor” means a person less than 18 years of age.
(8) “Serious harm” includes any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational harm, that is sufficiently serious, under all the surrounding circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor, services, or commercial sexual acts in order to avoid incurring that harm.
(i) The total circumstances, including the age of the victim, the relationship between the victim and the trafficker or agents of the trafficker, and any handicap or disability of the victim, shall be factors to consider in determining the presence of “deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another,” “duress,” and “coercion” as described in this section.
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff