A San Marcos man, San Marcos woman and Carlsbad woman are set to begin facing the music 8:30 a.m. Monday, June 27, charged with suspicion of human trafficking, pimping and pandering following a yearlong investigation by the multi-agency Human Trafficking Task Force.
The three suspects will be subject to a status conference at that time pertaining to their cases at Department 12 of San Diego Superior Court, 220 W. Broadway, San Diego.
It was the second major round of arrest from the force that includes most major San Diego County legal and enforcement agencies as well as state and federal agencies.
Operation Hotel Tango took its name, and cue, from the use of San Marcos venues as Ground Zero for a wide-ranging operation that led a stable of seven adult women, against their will, across the Golden State and surrounding areas for illicit sex and trade. Specific San Marcos and North County locations pertaining to the human trafficking rung were not disclosed.
Based on a tip that turned into the yearlong investigation, the inter-agency group arrested Tyrone Evans, 40, of San Marcos; Lila , 36, of Carlsbad; and Natasha McElrath, 37, of San Marcos, on a prostitution trifecta of suspicion of pimping, pandering and human trafficking.
The defendants entered not guilty pleas during arraignment on Friday, June 17. They are being held in jail on bail ranging from $200,000 to $800,000.
For the record, Evans was charged on suspicion of 22 felony counts with McElrath and Lefors charged on six felony counts each. Maximum penalties would land Evans in prison for 29 years, four months, while the women would face up to 24 years, eight months in prison.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis held a news conference at Downtown San Diego’s Hall of Justice saying Evans was the mastermind of the prostitution ring that exploited seven adult women, forcing them to work as prostitutes in California and other states. McElrath was described as a “hotel insider” who used her position to secure room for the illicit activity.
“This month’s successful take down of two sex trafficking operations is further evidence of law enforcement’s commitment and cooperation in San Diego County to stop the scourge of human trafficking,” Dumanis said. “Our partners at the Human Trafficking Task Force continue to rescue victims of sex trafficking on a regular basis and the DA’s Office is holding the individuals who exploit these young women and girls responsible for their crimes.
Evans, actually was considered somewhat of a mentor in the pimping community. “Several people sought out Evans seeking his advice on how best to conduct their own operations,” investigators said.
The trio ran kind of a textbook sex trade operation. “The investigation revealed that Evans, with the help of Lefors and McElrath, used force as well as coercion and duress to force victims to engage in sex acts for money,” investigators said. “Victims were forced to travel around the state, as well as to different states to conduct their sex trade. They were dependent on Evans for money and said Evans would leave them stranded and without enough money to eat.”
The arrests made an impression in California’s top legal office. Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, took time out from her quest for the U.S.Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Boxer to say: “Human traffickers exploit vulnerable children and adults, subjecting their victims to manipulation, violence, and unspeakable cruelty while forcing them into labor and prostitution,
”I thank our law enforcement partners in the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force and our California Department of Justice Special Agents for working diligently and collaboratively to protect victims of trafficking and hold accountable those who profit from the insidious crime of human trafficking.”
San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore went all verklempt over the arrests. “Where there is human trafficking, there are no victims’ rights,” Gore said. “There is only degradation and shame. And, it’s not limited to particular regions or individuals with a lengthy criminal past. We’re learning this is the ‘neighbor-next-door’ type of crime; a criminal malignancy that permeates all levels of our society.”
That’s not all. Dumanis provided a cliffhanger to the announcement. Later this month, the DA’s Office will announce a unique and provocative human trafficking awareness campaign designed to change public attitudes and policy toward human trafficking,” she said.
More about The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force
The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force is a cooperative effort involving the California Department of Justice/Attorney General’s Office, California Highway Patrol, Escondido Police Department, San Diego City Attorney’s Office, San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, San Diego Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and other supporting agencies to include Chula Vista Police Department, Coronado Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Enforcement and Removal Operations, ICE/Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service, La Mesa Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, San Diego County Probation Department, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Marshals Service. The mission is to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking and child exploitation organizations through a comprehensive, collaborative and regional law enforcement and prosecution response, in order to identify and rescue victims and hold their offenders accountable; along with promoting community awareness, expanding the exchange of information, and enhancing law enforcement resources and training.