Watch CBS News

Human Trafficking Brings Easy Money, Hard Lives For Teenage Girls

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Federal investigators say Sacramento is a gateway for human trafficking, and they say victims and their peddlers at are the proof.

CBS13's Ron Jones is getting answers and giving us a look at how Sacramento came to earn a No. 2 national ranking in human trafficking by getting one of the street pimps to share his secrets.

The feds accuse him of running a sophisticated human trafficking circuit across the central valley. He promised to take us deep into the game if we didn't reveal his identity.

"In the prostitution game, you don't need any money to make money," he said. "It's like instant. It's not like I got to go to college, and I got to get a degree."

The girls, the victims, start young in their early teens.

He says the game promises a lavish lifestyle, something glamorized in rap music.

"The rappers 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg got a song called 'I'm a P.I.M.P.' he said. "People are rapping to that all over the world, whether you're white, Asian, black, Mexican or anything."

Sacramento County's anti-human trafficking unit says the glamor is an illusion.

"The population we're talking about is extremely vulnerable," said an undercover officer. "And they're running away from something. So many of them are involved in the foster care system. They have bad situations at home."

Many are homeless youth, some as young as 14 having what's called "survival sex" for food and shelter.

"They have nothing else to give other than to sell their bodies unfortunately," the officer said.

Law enforcement says Sacramento is Northern California's gateway for human trafficking in part because of its location. The Interstate 80 corridor makes moving people easy.

"We are centrally located," he said. "Reno, Sacramento, East Bay to San Francisco down to San Jose."

Moving victims from city to city is simple.

"They'll buy a bus ticket," the unidentified pimp said. "Greyhound is cheapest or Amtrak ticket to get to where they need to go."

The circuit extends beyond our area to places such as San Diego, Orange County, Las Vegas, the Midwest and even back east.

But how are the victims recruited for this circuit.

Our informant says they're desperate for something they lack at home—affection.

"A female wants a boyfriend," he said. "He's around me, he's with me when I need to be cuddled."

They're then slowly brainwashed into prostituting for what's called "the family" with the pimp as the father figure.

"Like a husband and wife," he said, "but it's one husband, and you have a few different wives."

New victims must earn the family's trust before working alone, something that can take months of training.

"You don't send away a girl new to your circle in the beginning," he said. "You walk around and make $1,000 or $2,000 a day."

The true test of loyalty to the family is when the victim returns from out of town with fat stacks of cash—thousands of dollars from their work.

"What is that telling you right there? It's a choice of their choosing." he said.

And everyone gets a cut, with all involved taking their part.

"The person needs clothes, hair, shoes, nails, everything that's needed," he said.

That flashy lifestyle is the bait to entice new victims.

"For the most part, females seeking other females living good, ride in nice cars, getting jewelry," he said.

But an undercover officer warns, that sex career is short lived.

"Statistics in this area show that once a young lady, girl becomes involved in prostitution, the median life span is between seven and 10 years," he said.

They're told they're good for nothing but prostitution.

"There's abuse. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse," he said. "And they pound that into them over and over again."

From there, it's a vicious cycle.

"They firmly believe there is really not any way out, I'm now damaged, nobody's going to want me," he said.

Leaving them with only one way out, and they take it.

Detectives say that more than 80 percent of the girls have made their way through a foster system, and almost always start well before their 18th birthday.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.