Investigators bust suspected human traffickers in Santa Clara County

Bay Area

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — Investigators say there are anywhere from 600 to 700 adds online on any given day soliciting sex for money in the Bay Area and that many of those adds are not simply prostitution but are the result of human trafficking.

“Human traffickers are predators,” said Sgt. Kyle Benner with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. 

Benner is talking about people like 36-year-old Issack Lee who is charged with human trafficking following his arrest last month in a Milpitas motel room where he had arranged on-line for a young woman to have sex with several men who turned out to be undercover cops.

“Our detectives would respond to those adds and set up a date for commercial sex and then when the individual arrived, we would arrest them for solicitation of prostitution,” Benner said.

In just three days, 16 so-called “johns” were arrested for soliciting prostitution. 

More often than not, the victim is forced by physical or psychological abuse.  

Traffickers identify vulnerabilities and use them to manipulate and exploit victims. 

“They are exploited to the point where if they don’t follow the rules, then physical abuse is something that can result if they don’t do what they told,” said Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Detective Brent Bugarin.

Investigators say the victim in the Milpitas sting was from out of state, along with two other women who were targeted based on their narcotics dependency, which was used as a method of control.  

A total of five victims were rescued during the operation.

“In this case we would target victims and make dates with them and then when they showed up, we would recover them and get them in touch with advocate resources and then hopefully identify and arrest their exploiter,” Sgt. Benner said.

Benner says the victim in the Milpitas case thought that suspect Lee was going to help her get back to her family. 

Instead she was coerced into prostitution.

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