SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATED 2/15/17 10:00 p.m.
Four men are behind bars after using teenage girls as prostitutes in Monterey County and the Bay Area.
Detectives were able to find eight victims between the ages of 14 and 18.
Earlier in February, police were called to a disturbance on Kern Street where a father was trying to get his 14-year old daughter from a car after she had run away. The man who was in the car with her escaped.
"Patrol officers conducted an investigation and learned that that 14 - year old child was being exploited for purposes of human trafficking trade," said Commander John Murray with the Salinas Police Department.
Detectives took over the investigation and found many more victims and three more suspects, now totaling four that have been arrested.
The suspects would make the victims walk the area near Kern, East Market and Roosevelt Streets to prostitute the victims to purchasers who would come to the area. At the same time those suspects were using other means to sell the victims.
"They posted some photographs on social media sites as a means of soliciting purchasers," Murray said.
The victims weren't just being trafficked in Monterey County. Investigators believe they were also being used in the Bay Area at a San Jose mall.
"We've reached out to the San Jose task force, Murray said, "They have considerable expertise and we reached out to the Monterey County District Attorney's office and we've all been working together collaboratively."
An on-going investigation that may be just the beginning.
"There may potentially be additional suspects and there could potentially be additional victims," Murray said.
Police say some of the victims are back with their families, others are in protective custody. Anyone with any information about human trafficking should call police.
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According to the Salinas Police Department, officers responded to a disturbance on the 200 block of Kern Street on February 4 after family members stopped a 14-year-old girl from running away with an older man.
"They successfully recovered the juvenile and discovered the child had been exploited for the purposes of Human Trafficking," said Salinas Police.
Patrol officers were able to identify the driver of the car as 19-year-old Daniel Amaro of Soledad. However Amaro was able to get away.
Over the next couple of days detectives were able to identify eight victims ranging in age from 14 to 18 years old, as well as at least three more suspects.
The suspects identified as 23-year-old Abriam Ibarra of Salinas, 25-year-old Alfredo Hernandez of Gonzales and 31-year-old Ruben Trujillo of Greenfield.
Detectives requested help from the Monterey County District Attorney and a DA investigator.
"The investigation revealed Amaro and Ibarra provided drugs and alcohol to the victims. They also took pictures and video of the victims in different stages of undress, posted those pictures on social media with the intent to prostitute them and set up prostitution activity between the victims and purchasers (correct term for “Johns”)," said Salinas PD. "They collected and kept any money received for prostitution deals and controlled when and what the victims could eat and drink."
Detectives said the suspects made the victims walk by hotels on Kern Street, Roosevelt Street and E. Market Street areas. They also transported the teens out of the area for prostitution.
Some of the victims were taken to San Jose where they were given drugs and forced to walk the mall while Amaro solicited possible "Johns."
Detectives contacted San Jose Police's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force for help.
"On Friday, February 9th, several of their members traveled to Salinas and were a tremendous resource. With their assistance, Amaro was located in Ceres, CA. In conjunction with the Ceres Police Department, Amaro was arrested after a traffic stop at approximately 4:30 p.m," said SPD.
Amaro was found with a missing 14-year-old Salinas girl, a 17-year-old from Salinas, and a 15-year-old from Ceres.
Amaro was booked in the Monterey County Jail for multiple counts of Human Trafficking, Pimping victim under 16-years of age, and Conspiracy.
On Sunday, February 11, a Salinas patrol officer checked on an occupied suspicious vehicle in the Walmart parking lot located at 1800 North Main Street. Inside the car was 21-year-old Anthony Ramirez, a 15-year-old female from Salinas, Abriam Ibarra and a 20-year-old female.
The 20-year-old female was not involved and released.
Ramirez was cited and released for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor and a probation violation.
Ibarra was booked into the Monterey County Jail for several counts of Human Trafficking and Pimping Victim Under 16-years-old, multiple charges of Having Sex with a Person Under 16-years-old while being over 21-years-old, Conspiracy and a Probation Violation.
Alfred Hernandez was arrested on February 13 for 8 counts of Sex Crimes with a child 14 to 15-years-old. Ruben Trujillo was arrested for 2 counts of Sex Crimes with a child 14 to 15-years-old. Both were booked in the Monterey County Jail.
"The Salinas Police Department is grateful for the expert assistance of the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, the San Jose Police Department, in particular the ICAC Task Force, the F.B.I., the Ceres Police Department, Monterey County Probation Department and Monterey County Social Services for their cooperation and continued assistance with this complicated case," said SPD.
The investigation is ongoing and Salinas Police said they anticipate more arrests and the identification of additional victims.
Anyone with information regarding this case or similar ones should call Salinas Police Detective Ruben Sanchez at 831-758-7927.