Joshua Jerome Davis, 22, and his mother, Sharilyn Kae Anderson, 45, are charged in a five-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury Thursday with child sex trafficking; coercion and enticement of a minor; transporting a minor; and aiding and abetting. The sex trafficking of a child by force carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years. The indictment also charges the mother and son with prostituting a second victim, an adult, through the use of force, fraud and coercion. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
"Child sex trafficking is a silent epidemic affecting too many of our communities," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. "In recent weeks, we have seen a significant uptick in the number of child sex trafficking cases being referred to this office. The allegations in this case – a mother and son teamed up to exploit and victimize teenagers – are particularly appalling. Those engaged in this manipulative and abusive conduct need to know that law enforcement in Southern California has joined forces to combat this form of modern-day slavery."
Anderson was taken into custody Wednesday night by Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) vice detectives and special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) based upon a previously filed criminal complaint. She made her initial court appearance Thursday morning.
Her son was arrested Aug. 8 outside a residence he recently leased in North Las Vegas, also based upon a criminal complaint related to the case. Following his arrest, Davis was transferred to Los Angeles, where he remains in custody without bond. Davis is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon for a detention hearing. At the time of Davis' arrest, investigators located and rescued the now 17-year-old female victim, who was with Davis' mother. The victim has been placed in a shelter.
The charges against Davis and Anderson represent the second federal child sex trafficking case arising from a joint probe by the LBPD and HSI in the last two months. The LBPD initially opened the investigation last year after the victim's father reported her missing. The ensuing probe uncovered evidence that Davis, assisted and counseled by his mother, had prostituted the victim at several hotels in Southern California and transported her across state lines to Nevada to engage in commercial sex in Las Vegas casinos.
"We value our partnership with our federal partners to help impact the sexual exploitation of children and to hold those responsible accountable through enforcement and substantial penalties," said Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell. "Community awareness is a critical component to helping prevent other children from falling prey to this horrible crime."
According to publicly filed court documents, Davis first communicated with the victim on Facebook in 2010, when the victim was 14, leading to an initial in-person meeting in December 2011. Several months later, the victim created an account on a website commonly used to promote prostitution and escort services. She subsequently told investigators she paid Davis approximately 30 percent of the proceeds she earned from commercial sex. Initially, the victim claimed Davis believed she was 19, but when confronted by investigators with a text message from the defendant indicating he knew she was not yet 18, she recanted and said Davis believed she was 17.
"Unfortunately, it's all too common for minors involved in prostitution who are under duress to attempt to shield their pimps from law enforcement by withholding or minimizing information regarding the pimp's knowledge and control over the minor's activities," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "The coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement partners to bring those engaged in the sexual exploitation of juveniles to justice. We owe it to these underage victims who are being robbed of their youth and their innocence."
Court documents allege Anderson helped facilitate the prostitution scheme by transporting the teenage victim and a second victim to hotels to engage in prostitution when her son was unavailable. Anderson also made threats to and assaulted the second victim to intimidate the victim to continue making money for her son by prostituting.
Davis was initially arrested April 23 and booked into the Long Beach City Jail on state pandering and human trafficking violations. According to a case affidavit, Davis told investigators then that he obtained a hotel room for the victim in Las Vegas "out of the goodness of his heart." After posting bond in the state case, investigators say Davis absconded to the Las Vegas area, where he reunited with the victim and resumed his commercial sex activities.
Authorities believe the defendants may have additional unidentified victims. Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call HSI's toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or submit information using HSI's online tip form at http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp.
Victims of human trafficking, or individuals who have knowledge of trafficking activity, may also contact the Long Beach Police Department's Vice Investigations Detail at 562-570-7219. To remain anonymous, the public may visit www.lacrimestoppers.org.