Three men are facing human trafficking charges and other criminal counts after allegedly victimizing two teenage girls, bringing them from Northern California to Orange County to exploit and prostitute them, the O.C. District Attorney’s Office said Friday.
The three suspects are Rafael Montano, 18; Ivan Ulises Zamora, 18; and Jonathan Deanda, 19, the DA’s office said. Both Montano and Deanda are from the NorCal city of Pittsburg while Zamora is from Oakland.
They were arrested on Monday after police were able to locate one of the two victims on a street in Santa Ana. On Thursday, they were charged with several criminal counts and two of the men could receive life sentences if convicted.
The men are accused of finding a 17-year-old girl through social media and then driving her and a 16-year-old girl from Pittsburg to Orange County to make them do sex work, according to prosecutors.
Montano allegedly grabbed the 17-year-old by the neck, strangling her and forcing her to prostitute herself when she tried to go home, prosecutors said. Deanda allegedly drove the same girl to an area of Orange County that’s known for prostitution and human trafficking.
Montano and Zamora also stand accused of “supervising” the girl “while she engaged in commercial sex,” the DA’s office said in a news release. They would then collect the money she earned, prosecutors said.
On Monday, police officers contacted that victim along a Santa Ana street. She was identified by authorities as a victim of human trafficking.
Police then found the hotel where the three suspects were staying, where they came across the second victim, a 16-year-old girl, according to prosecutors.
The three men were arrested at the scene.
Montano and Zamora each face two counts of trafficking a minor, two counts of pandering with a minor over 16 years old by procuring, pimping of a minor and attempted pimping of a minor. There has also been a sentencing enhancement of trafficking by force or fear filed by the DA’s office.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in state prison.
Meanwhile, Deanda faces two counts of trafficking of a minor, two counts of pandering with a minor over 16 years old by procuring, pimping of a minor and attempted pimping of a minor. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years and eight months in state prison.
No further information has been released by the DA’s office.