Orange County District Attorney
For Immediate Release, Case # 13CM05987/13NM09072: September 16, 2013
SANTA ANA – Two sex purchasers were convicted and sentenced Thursday for agreeing to engage in commercial sex with a woman whom they believed to be a prostitute. Elijah David Venegas, 30, Whittier, and Jason Paul Smith 33, Buena Park, each pleaded guilty Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, to one misdemeanor count of agreeing to engage in prostitution. Venegas was sentenced three years of informal probation, 10 days in jail with the possibility of CalTrans in lieu of jail, and must submit to AIDS testing and education. Smith was sentenced three years of informal probation, 30 days in jail with the possibility of CalTrans in lieu of jail, and must submit to AIDS testing and education.
At approximately 4:40 a.m. on July 10, 2013, Venegas drove his car up to a woman in the area of 3500 West Hazard Avenue in Santa Ana and engaged in a brief conversation with her before she got inside the vehicle. A Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) officer observed the interaction and arrested Venegas for soliciting sex from the woman.
The area of 3500 West Hazard Avenue in Santa Ana is known to law enforcement to be a high-prostitution area and is known to frequently be used by individuals who sexually exploit and traffic women and underage girls for financial gain, including pimps, panderers, and human traffickers.
At approximately 4:00 p.m. on July 31, 2013, Smith responded to an advertisement on a website known for prostitution. Smith agreed to meet with a female Buena Park Police Department (BPPD) undercover officer, whom he believed to be a prostitute. BPPD arrested Smith when he attempted to meet with the undercover officer at a motel for commercial sex.
These cases were prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney’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. Commercial sex trafficking is the second most lucrative criminal enterprise behind narcotics trafficking. Often the perpetrators are gang members and/or career criminals.
The HEAT Unit also targets defendants who create a demand for prostitution by soliciting and purchasing sex, which increases the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children. The HEAT Unit uses a tactical plan called PERP: Prosecution of human trafficking perpetrators and sex purchasers; Education for law enforcement to properly handle human trafficking and pandering cases; Resources to raise public awareness and provide assistance to the victims; and Publicity to inform the community about the problem and notify human traffickers and sex purchasers that this crime cannot be perpetrated without suffering severe consequences.
The OCDA announced in April 2013 that he will publicize the names of defendants convicted of sexually exploiting women or children by soliciting sex acts as part of the campaign to reduce the demand for human exploitation and trafficking.
These cases were investigated by SAPD and BPPD. Deputy District Attorney Michael Bardeen of the HEAT Unit prosecuted these cases.
Susan Kang Schroeder Chief of Staff Office: 714-347-8408 Cell: 714-292-2718
Farrah Emami Spokesperson Office: 714-347-8405 Cell: 714-323-4486