RIVERSIDE, California – Law enforcement authorities have arrested an alleged pimp who is charged with trafficking a 16-year-old girl and advertising her services as a prostitute in an online publication.
Lawrence Gunn Jr., 32, was arrested without incident Tuesday afternoon at a Woodland Hills apartment complex where he appears to have been residing. Gunn was arrested pursuant to a criminal complaint filed last week in United States District Court that that charges him with sex trafficking of a child by force, fraud or coercion.
The arrest of Gunn was announced today when the criminal complaint was unsealed. Gunn made his initial appearance in the case this afternoon in federal court in Riverside and remains in custody.
Gunn, who is also known as “Classified,” allegedly branded his prostitutes with tattoos of his moniker to mark his “stable” of sex workers.
The investigation into Gunn began in February when the 16-year-old victim was traced to a Moreno Valley motel, where authorities discovered five victims who were working for Gunn – three of whom were minors. Several of the victims had tattoos that read “Classified,” including the 16-year-old victim, who had the tattoo over her right eye.
The investigation showed that the victims had placed advertisements for commercial sex acts on Backpage.com and that Gunn had about a dozen women and girls working for him. One of the victims had posted hundreds of ads for sex services in states as far away as Alaska and Minnesota, according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint. Several victims told authorities that Gunn took all of the money they collected from customers, with one victim using a wire transfer service to send more than $17,000 to Gunn over the course of three months.
“Every day, human trafficking victimizes large numbers of women and children, causing victims physical harm and long-lasting emotional trauma,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case demonstrates that law enforcement has adopted a new approach that views the women and children as crime victims, but we will continue to aggressively prosecute their traffickers.”
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The charge of child sex trafficking carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and statutory maximum sentence of life.
This case was investigated by the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, which include representatives from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The Moreno Valley Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sherriff's Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department assisted in the investigation.
“Forcing anyone, much less a child, to prostitute themselves under the constant threat of physical harm is not only criminal – it is morally reprehensible,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “That what amounts to modern slavery occurs here in our communities in the 21st century is inconceivable. HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those involved are held accountable for their crimes.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tritia L. Yuen of the Riverside Branch Office.
USAO – California, Central Updated November 30, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-297 / November 30, 2016