LASD Human Trafficking Bureau Rescues Vict from Local Hotel, 5 Arrested;New Bureau Touts 60 Rescued Since Inception

Newly-Launched Human Trafficking Bureau Rescues Victim from Buena Park Hotel, Five Suspects Arrested

Captain Merrill Ladenheim from LASD Human Trafficking Bureau.(Photo by Keyang Pang)

In November of 2015, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell announced the launch of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Task Force, one of the most comprehensive partnerships in the nation which uses a victim-centered approach to fight the heinous crime of human exploitation.  The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Human Trafficking Bureau spearheads the taskforce, comprised of Sheriff’s detectives who work with federal, state, county, and local resources to focus on sex and labor trafficking investigations.  Task Force members focus on identifying and rescuing trafficking victims and work with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) to provide victim-centered services to meet the needs of victims, while working to investigate, arrest and prosecute offenders.

Captain Merrill Ladenheim from LASD Human Trafficking Bureau.(Photo by Keyang Pang)

The taskforce has grown to include five federal agencies, four state agencies, four county agencies, and three local policing agencies. These include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Offices of the United States Attorneys, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the County of Los Angeles Probation Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Division of Adult Parole Operations, and the United States Department of Homeland Security.  Nine additional LASD detective personnel were added to the taskforce within the last month.

Since its inception, the LASD Human Trafficking Bureau and our partner agencies have conducted 5 trafficking based operations.  In these operations, 60 victims, aged between 14 and 17 years old, were rescued; 14 trafficking suspects were arrested; and 96 search warrants were served.
On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, the Human Trafficking Bureau became involved in an investigation surrounding a 20-year-old missing female with a nexus to the City of Paramount.  After a series of peculiar communications, she was reported as a missing person by her mother at South Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station.  Because of the circumstances surrounding the victim’s absence, the Human Trafficking Bureau was notified.

It was learned the victim left home on Friday, February 26, 2016, in the company of several friends. Her mother grew worried when she did not see any social media postings over the weekend from the victim, who was unreachable through all accounts.

Two days later, the victim phoned her mother and said she was in Oakland.  This alarmed the mother who immediately questioned the unannounced trip and asked when she would return; the victim said she could not talk and hung up.  There was no additional contact over the weekend and, although the mother was worried, she reasoned her daughter was 20 years old and would return Monday.
Monday came and passed without the victim’s return or any word from her.  On Tuesday, March 1, 2016, the victim made a hushed phone call to her mother and advised she was being held against her will for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation by two male Black adults driving a red sports utility vehicle.

After further investigation of the information provided by the victim, detectives learned the victim was no longer in Oakland, but hidden locally in an apartment in the 16800 block of Downey Avenue, Paramount.  An Adult/Female, was detained in a red sports utility vehicle seen leaving the location that evening after she made statements linking her to the missing victim.

By 9:30 PM the same night, detectives narrowed down the victim’s location to a motel room in the 7100 block of Beach Boulevard in Buena Park.  Just after 10:00 PM, detectives made entry into the room and rescued the victim.  She was uninjured and provided additional information about a second vehicle driven by the suspects, a late-model gray Mercedes Benz with paper plates, and said she believed they were on their way back to the Downey Avenue address.

During the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 2, 2016, detectives saw the suspects’ vehicle pull into the driveway of the Paramount location.  The occupants, Suspects Chad Miller, male Black/27 years; Rico Clayton, male Black/28 years; Monique Butler, female Black/22 years; and an additional Adult /Female, were detained without incident.

Detectives learned the victim was assaulted by Suspect Chad Miller and was held captive for the purpose of committing acts of Human Trafficking.  They made sure she was medically treated and connected with service providers after being reunited with her family.

All five suspects were booked at Lakewood Sheriff’s Station:
•        Suspect Chad Miller was booked and charged with Conspiracy, Pimping, Pandering, and False imprisonment by Force, and is being held in lieu of $145,000 bail;
•        Suspect Rico Clayton was booked and charged with Conspiracy, Pimping, and Pandering, and was subsequently released after posting bond for $160,000;
•        Suspect Monique Butler was booked and charged with Conspiracy and Pandering, and is being held in lieu of $110,000;
•        The investigation into the involvement of the two additional adult females is ongoing.

There is indication the suspects may operate as far north as Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California, as well as the Los Angeles/Orange County area.  The LASD Human Trafficking Bureau is seeking the public’s assistance, as there may be additional victims.

Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau at (213) 229-1700.  If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing (800) 222-TIPS (8477), or text the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or use the website (LASD)


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