A multi-agency undercover operation led by the Redwood City Police Department netted six arrests for soliciting prostitution and put a human trafficking suspect behind bars Wednesday, Lt. Sean Hart said.
Mario Turner, a 25-year-old Alameda resident, was arrested on four felony charges including human trafficking before 6 p.m. Wednesday at a motel on the 2300 block of El Camino Real in Redwood City, Hart said. Turner allegedly responded to a fictitious ad an undercover agent posted online and brought a 19-year-old woman to the motel, Hart said.
Once the woman was in the room, it was determined she was a victim of human trafficking as Turner recruited her from out of state and arranged the prostitution, Hart said.
“There’s a lot of community awareness and law enforcement awareness of the human trafficking issues, so we’re trying to focus on the human trafficking aspect of this prostitution,” Hart said.
Hart said he couldn’t comment on the details of the arrangement between the woman and Turner as the investigation is ongoing and she is considered a victim under the state’s human trafficking section of the penal code.
Turner was subsequently arrested in the parking lot where he was waiting for the victim, Hart said. Turner is currently being held in county jail on $250,000 bail on four felony charges of taking a person for prostitution without consent, pimping, pandering and human trafficking. Turner also had an outstanding $1,000 warrant for traffic violations out of Santa Clara County, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The entire operation began around noon, lasted until 6 p.m. and targeted both prostitutes and those looking to hire them, Hart said.
“Running an in-call operation where we’d call suspected prostitutes who are advertising on Internet sites and try to get them to respond to the hotel and we also put out undercover ads soliciting males,” Hart said.
This was the first sting Redwood City police had conducted for some time and Hart said he couldn’t reveal which motel they sting was operated out of or which websites police used. Redwood City police took the lead and there was at least one other law enforcement agency involved but Hart declined to say which one.
Throughout the undercover operation, six other men were arrested for soliciting prostitution, cited on the misdemeanor charges and released at the scene, Hart said.
The entire decoy sting targeted both Johns and prostitutes but was also geared toward assisting victims of human trafficking, Hart said.
“It’s basically to try to rescue these victims who are being sex trafficked and the most effective way for us to do this is with undercover operations,” Hart said. “And our goal is to obviously get services for these victims. That’s why the female is a victim and was provided with victim services.”
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