LOS ANGELES -- Three people have been charged with pimping eight teens for commercial sex work in a ring that operated in California, Nevada and Texas, authorities said Thursday.
The teens, between 15 and 17, were lured into the commercial sex operation that solicited customers through postings on the internet, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said.
Quinton Brown, 30, Gerald Lavell Turner, 32, and Mia McNeil, 32, face a total of 54 charges that include sex trafficking, pimping and identity theft, authorities said. It wasn't immediately clear if they had attorneys who could comment on the allegations.
McDonnell, who was joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux at a press conference, said the suspects "sought to exploit children while defrauding their victims and other unsuspecting people."
"Law enforcement agents throughout the state work tirelessly every day to ensure that Californians are safe from exploitation and do not become victims of human trafficking," state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
McDonnell said the investigation began in January when deputies from the West Hollywood station responded to a call about a missing girl from Tulare County who might be in a West Hollywood apartment, CBS Los Angeles reports. Deputies found the missing girl, as well as a female adult and another adult who was on parole. The call led to the discovery of the alleged sex trafficking operation, McDonnell said.
The human trafficking included 13 female victims, including the eight teens, authorities said.
Human trafficking has become "one of the fastest-growing criminal enterprises worldwide," Becerra said.
Authorities say McNeil used stolen identities to rent apartments across California that were used as brothels and purchased luxury cars that were used to transport the victims throughout California and to Las Vegas, Nevada and Texas.
McNeil has not yet been apprehended, authorities said.