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Burlingame is a city of about 30,000 residents in San Mateo County, CA. It is located on the San Francisco Peninsula and has a significant shoreline on San Francisco Bay. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. Among the more serious crimes associated with the city’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2015, the Burlingame Police Department participated in the annual federal initiative, “Operation Cross County IX.” The nationwide operation focuses on apprehending sex traffickers and sex buyers, in addition to rescuing victims of sex trafficking. As a result of the 2015 investigation in the Bay Area alone, six underage victims were recovered and eight sex traffickers/pimps were arrested. Additionally, 52 male sex buyers were arrested. The Burlingame PD was one of thirty local law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area that participated in the FBI‘s investigation. In 2019, the Burlingame PD participated in the joint operation into an organized crime ring throughout California. As a result of the investigation, six individuals were arrested, each on numerous felony charges. According to amended complaint, the defendants committed 13 felonies between 2015 and 2019 related to sex trafficking of multiple victims, tax fraud, and money laundering. The defendants allegedly advertised on Backpage.com in connection with their human trafficking operation and allegedly deprived individuals of their liberty in order to sex traffic them at multiple brothel locations. In order to exercise control over the victims, the defendants allegedly withheld at least one survivor’s passport and threatened future job opportunities. Among other things, the defendants were also allegedly involved in the collection of proceeds related to the sex trafficking and allegedly attempted to launder the money through monetary instruments, such as checks, that were then deposited at various banks. As a result of the investigation, all six suspects were arrested and 14 survivors of trafficking were rescued. As of 2021, four defendants have plead guilty to their set of accused charges and one defendant remains at large.
Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
Sex buyer identity disclosure and loss of employment are also consequences of buying sex in the city. For example, in January of 2019, one of the first releases of records under a new state law designed to show how police officers are disciplined for major offenses, documents show the Burlingame Police Department fired a veteran officer in 2018 after it found he offered to help a woman charged with DUI if she engaged in sex acts with him. According to documents, the former officer 45-year-old officer was later found to have made similar proposals to two other women, one who engaged in sexual acts with him. The offender had been a Burlingame police officer since 2000, and had previously worked for the Hayward Police Department. The law requires any agency that employs sworn officers to publicly release records of discipline related to official dishonesty and sexual misconduct on duty. It also requires release of all investigations into the use of force involving a firearm and any force that results in serious bodily injury, including disciplinary records stemming from such cases. According to the discipline records released by Burlingame police, the unidentified woman with the drunken driving charge was arrested in March of 2018. The documents do not indicate whether the offender was the arresting officer. However, the former officer did obtain her phone number and address, in order to go to her home and attempt to solicit sex acts from the woman while “using his police authority, by offering to assist her with her DUI case.” She rejected the former officer’s advances and reported him to police. The Police Department put the offender on administrative leave when he showed up to work the next day, and was fired about three months later by then Police Chief Eric Wollman. The internal investigation found that the former officer violated 12 department rules, including exercising his authority wrongly, disclosing investigative information, and discrediting his department. The offender’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.
Sex Buyer Identity Disclosure, Employment Loss:
- https://www.kqed.org/police-records-law-burlingame-cop-fired-for-asking-woman-to-trade-sex-for-help-with-charges (2019)
Background on Prostitution and Sex Trafficking in the Area:
- https://www.eastbaytimes.com/burlingame-police-nab-two-women-in-prostitution-sting/ (2009)
- https://abc7news.com/archive/ (2009)
- https://www.eastbaytimes.com/two-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-at-millbrae-hotel/ (2013)
- https://www.mercurynews.com/two-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-at-millbrae-hotel/ (2013)
- https://www.nbcbayarea.com/local/millbrae-prostitution-sting-nabs-2-suspects/ (2013)
- https://www.mercurynews.com/burlingame-prostitution-sting-nets-arrest-at-massage-parlor (2013)
- https://www.fbi.gov/fbi-announces-results-of-nationwide-human-trafficking-operation (2015)
- https://patch.com/california/man-29-who-pimped-out-girlfriend-16-burlingame-sentenced-decades (2017)
- https://www.vcstar.com/ventura-county-sheriff-detectives-bust-human-trafficking-ring/ (2019)
- https://cslea.com/2019/09/statewide-sex-trafficking-ring-busted/ (2019)
- Amended Complaint (2019)
- Human Trafficking Task Force Annual Report (2019)
- https://oag.ca.gov//attorney-general-bonta-secures-guilty-pleas-statewide-trafficking-ring-bust (2021)
- Amended Complaint (2021)
- https://www.kron4.com/3-plead-guilty-in-california-sex-trafficking-ring-case/ (2021)
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