Seven people were arrested this week and two remain outstanding in connection with operating an extensive sex and labor trafficking ring out of businesses in three Southern California counties, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office investigators announced Thursday.
The investigation began in January after the agency’s special crimes unit received information about sex and labor trafficking occurring at several massage parlors and skin care businesses in the county.
The businesses were apparently owned and operated by a family in the Inland Empire and were working under false names in Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, officials said in a news release.
Investigators learned that those involved targeted women from Mexico to work in these businesses, some of whom were living in Southern California on refugee visas.
The suspects allegedly used human smugglers to recruit women in Mexico and bring them into the U.S. to work at the illicit businesses, officials said.
“Once these women were recruited, sex advertisements were placed on various internet sites depicting them,” authorities said in the news release.
The advertisements described pricing, type of sexual encounter and where the women were working. They were updated daily and the women were rotated among the different businesses across the counties, officials said.
Aside from the six personal care facilities functioning as trafficking business in the counties, officials also identified a fashion boutique that was used to launder proceeds from the illicit business.
The businesses were were only a facade for the illegal activities occurring within the trafficking ring, Ventura County sheriff’s Detective Kathryn Torres told KTLA.
“Proceeds from these businesses were funneled through the fashion boutique to make the proceeds appear legal so the suspects could pay car payments, mortgages, and other expenses,” authorities explained.
The extensive organization was primarily run by siblings Olga and Carlos Paredes, of Colton. Olga Paredes, 47, allegedly oversaw the businesses, met with managers and opened new businesses under fake names, while her brother allegedly managed several of the locations, collected payment receipts, recruited the women and posted the sex advertisements, officials said.
Flor De Maria Evora, 25, of West Covina — Carlos Paredes’ girlfriend — and Jaime Vasquez, 33, of Colton — the Paredes’ nephew — allegedly managed the daily accounting sheets and proceeds for all the businesses.
Olga Ramirez, 23, Olga Paredes’ daughter, allegedly managed the fashion boutique and helped her mother open new trafficking businesses, officials said.
Maria Del Refugio Garcia, 65 — the Paredes’ mother — lives in Mexico and allegedly “provided guidance and direction” on operating the illicit businesses. She also allegedly opened bank accounts in Mexico to funnel funds from the businesses out of the U.S., officials said.
Bruce Pineda, 18, of San Diego, Ismael Reyes, 62, of Ontario, and Hector Prado Ramos, 28, of Ontario, allegedly managed three separate illicit businesses for the family.
Search warrants were served at the businesses and several homes on Tuesday and numerous victims were found and rescued. Additionally, “large sums” of cash believed to be proceeds from sex trafficking and money laundering were seized, officials said.
Olga Paredes, Evora, Ramirez, Vasquez, Pineda, Reyes, and Ramos were all arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime, human trafficking, pimping and pandering, officials said. Authorities on Thursday released mugshots for four of the seven suspects.
The case will be reviewed by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
Carlos Paredes, 42, was not found during the search warrants, and his mother is believed to still be in Mexico. Arrest warrants in connection with the same charges are out for both suspects, officials said.
The raided businesses were: Royal Spa and Cool Sculpting in Oxnard, Sunset Skin Care in Port Hueneme, Gem Skin Care in Colton, Cosmopolitan Spa in Palm Springs, Orchid Skin Care in San Bernardino and Fashion Spot in Colton.