Authorities suspect there may be additional unidentified victims
LAS VEGAS — A Southern California man arrested by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court here Monday afternoon for allegedly transporting a teenage Minnesota girl to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution.
Laron Darrell Carter, aka "Birdd," 36, of Gardena, Calif., is charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison. Carter was taken into custody Monday morning by HSI special agents in Las Vegas. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.
HSI began its investigation a year ago after Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies rescued a 16-year-old girl in Los Angeles who had been reported missing from Minneapolis. According to the affidavit filed in support of the complaint, the teen, identified as Jane Doe 1, told HSI that she met Carter over the telephone through a mutual acquaintance. Carter subsequently persuaded her to travel to Los Angeles to meet him, promising to be her "boyfriend" and "take care of her." He then bought her a bus ticket for the trip.
"The manipulation and coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "The defendants in these cases prey on the impressionable and the vulnerable, robbing them of their youth and their innocence. HSI will continue to work closely with its federal and local law enforcement partners to aggressively target those who sexually exploit and subjugate underage victims."
Jane Doe 1 told HSI that upon arriving in Southern California, Carter took her to a local hotel, told her she would be working as a prostitute, and directed her to pose for suggestive photographs, which he then posted on the Internet. Within days, the victim fled, but without money or a place to stay, she soon returned to the hotel where the defendant allegedly beat her and whipped her with a belt. On the last night that Jane Doe 1worked for the defendant, in late January 2013, he slammed her head into a car window and forced her to engage in a sex act with him. The victim sought refuge in a nail salon and was ultimately taken into protective custody by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies.
HSI's ensuing investigation revealed that Carter had been convicted of pandering in January 2013 in Clark County. According to the affidavit, a police report related to that conviction alleged that Carter transported a 13-year-old girl from California to Las Vegas to work as a prostitute. The police report further alleged that Carter used physical violence and deprived the victim of sleep and food if she failed to comply with his "rules." Carter, who ultimately pleaded guilty to pandering, was released on parole in early December.
Based upon information gathered during the investigation, authorities believe Carter may have additional unidentified underage victims in Southern California, Phoenix and the Las Vegas area. 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.
The case is being worked by HSI special agents in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Minneapolis based upon the initial lead provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. HSI has received assistance with the investigation from the Minneapolis and Phoenix police departments.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.