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15-year-old YouTube star arrested and charged with sexual exploitation
Three arrested and charged with sexual exploitation
YouTuber Steven Fernandez, left, Jose Barajas and Keelan Lamar Dadd have been arrested and charged with the sexual exploitation of a 12-year-old girl. (Los Angeles Police Department)
Brittny Mejia Brittny MejiaContact Reporter
Los Angeles police have accused a 15-year-old skateboarding sensation, his adult manager and another man of sexually exploiting a 12-year-old girl who reportedly was “lured off the street in hopes of meeting celebrities.”
In a statement released Thursday by the Los Angeles Police Department, investigators said they were taking the unusual step of publicizing the name of the juvenile suspect in order to identify other potential victims.
“We’re taking exceptional measures to find additional victims because the fate of some young lives may be at stake,” LAPD Det. Ninette Toosbuy said.
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Compton skateboarder Steven Fernandez, a YouTube personality who markets a clothing brand, was arrested along with his manager, Jose Barajas, 22, in a sting operation on Nov. 17, police said. Another man, Keelan Lamar Dadd, 27, a professional skateboarder, turned himself in on Dec. 3, authorities said.
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According to investigators, the victim told them that Fernandez called her over to a car on Ventura Boulevard in Encino on Nov. 13. Fernandez allegedly told the girl he would introduce her to celebrities and include her in an “MTV special” if she engaged in sexual acts with the three men.
The victim’s mother found out about the episode and police were informed. Investigators then posed as the 12-year-old and arranged by text message to meet the suspects in an abandoned home for sex.
As a result of that sting operation, Fernandez was booked on suspicion of procuring a child to engage in a lewd act, as well as lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14.
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He was released into his mother’s custody and ordered to wear an ankle tracker.
Fernandez’s attorney, Ryan D’Ambrosio, said Thursday that his client had been taken advantage of.
“Steven is just as much of a victim as the other minor involved,” D’Ambrosio said. “We feel that his celebrity status was preyed upon by these adults.”
D’Ambrosio said there would be no further statements until the completion of the investigation.
Barajas and Dadd also have been booked on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14. Both have been released on bail.
Investigators said they believed that Fernandez and his friends cruised around places such as Encino and Hollywood trying to meet girls. The 12-year-old victim came forward in large part because her mother discovered the incident, Toosbuy said.
Detectives released the name of the 15-year-old, citing section 827.5 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows for the disclosure of the name of a minor taken into custody for commission of any serious felony.
Investigators said they wanted parents to look at the names and pictures of the defendants and ask their daughters whether there had been any contact.
“The way in which Steven Fernandez and his cohorts lured this 12-year-old, it appears that that’s their lifestyle,” Toosbuy said. “I’m afraid that there might be other tweens out there who fell into the trappings of this particular young girl and might be ashamed and embarrassed to say anything.”
By The Associated Press
COVENTRY, R.I. (AP) _ Seven Rhode Island men are facing sexual solicitation charges following an undercover police sting targeting people answering ads placed on the website Backpage.com.
Undercover detectives posed as women soliciting payment for sex and placed ads on the site. They arranged to meet with the men who responded at local hotels located off Interstate 95 at the Coventry/West Greenwich line.
Seven men were arrested Friday and charged with procurement of sexual conduct for a fee.
The idea for the sting originally began as a collaborative idea between the Coventry and West Greenwich Police Departments, as part of an effort to combat a rise in sex and human trafficking. The Providence Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations also became involved in the operation.
The suspects range in age from 20 to 58.
© The Associated Press WLNE-TV 2015
The owner of the motel is accused of profiting from teen prostitution. According to the Department of Justice, Charlotte ranks in the top 10 nationally for sex trafficking.
Hannah Arrowood, the Executive Director of Present Age Ministries, a group that rescues teens from human traffickers, said most people would be surprised to know how big the problem is in Charlotte.
“What we’ve learned is Charlotte becomes a central hub for various factors, but one of the main ones being all of the interstate highways are so accessible,” said Arrowood.
Red Roof Inn has terminated its franchise agreement with the west Charlotte motel, located at 3300 Queen City Drive.
The owner, Chandresh Patel, through his attorneys released a statement, saying “they were recently advised of criminal activity which took place at the hotel in the past,” and they are in “regular communications with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and are taking action to resolve the issues.”
Charlotte hotel at center of sex trafficking allegations
Patel and his attorneys also pointed out that they have new management in place and new procedures in place to eliminate the conditions that may have allowed criminal activity in the past.
The federal investigation took several months before authorities made a move. Last week, the FBI and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police filed the paperwork asking to seize the property from its owner due to sex trafficking violations that happened on the premises.
Sources told WCNC that pimps would transport young girls from out of state and force them to work. Arrowood’s organization works with girls as young as 12 years old.
“I think they would be shocked to find it in their local high schools. I think they would be shocked to find it in their local churches. I think they would be shocked to find it at the malls they shop at,” said Arrowood.
Sources told WCNC that this is the first time in North Carolina that authorities have attempted to seize a property due to human trafficking.