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Moreno Valley is a city of approximately 194,000 residents, located near Redlands and Rubidoux in Riverside County, California. Not formally incorporated until 1984, the city has quickly become one of the largest population centers in the area. It is currently the second largest city in the county, second only to neighboring Riverside. Prostitution and sex trafficking in the city are well documented, as are assaults against prostituted women and girls.
In recent years, city and county law enforcement have reported an increase in community complaints about commercial sex sales in Moreno Valley, and have conducted several high-profile investigations into businesses suspected to be fronts for prostitution. In their efforts, female officers from the Moreno Valley Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team have at times gone undercover as prostituted women looking for “work” at the alleged brothels. If the female officer could confirm that illegal sex sales were taking place on the premises, a backup team swept the building and arrested the business owners and prostituted women present.
After two such “jane sweeps,” the MVPD opted to replace the women with police decoys to arrest local johns. In September 2009, police used existing businesses’ ads, telephones and computers to arrange appointments with the men who contacted them. Fifteen sex buyers were apprehended as a result. In September 2012, six johns were similarly arrested after attempting to solicit an undercover female officer at a brothel broken up by police earlier in the day. The men’s names were not released to the public. In April 2013, a joint “jane” and “john” sting resulted in the arrest of eight sex buyers, whose names, ages, and hometowns were released to news outlets. In October 2013, 19 men were arrested at a Moreno Valley motel pursuant to an investigation of a prostitution ring. In December 2013, 21 men were arrested for solicitation during a reverse sting. Of these men, three were charged with felony solicitation and drug offenses, and another 21 charged with misdemeanor prostitution. The Moreno Valley Police Department reported they conducted the operation in response to community complaints. In March 2014, a reverse sting resulted in the arrest of 27 sex buyers, plus additional arrests for drug and weapons offenses, and parole violations. In June 2014, a reversal resulted in the arrest of 25 men, two of whom were wanted on felony warrants for other crimes.
Notably, sex trafficking has also emerged a growing problem in the Moreno Valley. In March 2013, a former school board member was sentenced to 15 years in prison for pimping young women and girls in the city. That same month, in a separate incident, an 18-year-old woman was charged with the trafficking and prostitution of a 14-year-old girl after law enforcement saw photos of the minor on Backpage.com. The victim was recovered at a local motel. In August 2013, a young female was recovered after being abducted by five men in nearby Compton and brought to a Moreno Valley motel where she was sexually assaulted and told by her abductors that they planned to force her to conduct prostitution for money. The 18-year-old was able to escape and alert authorities when the men “became distracted before the alleged prostitution could take place.”
- Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “Undercover Sting Targets Moreno Valley Brothels”, Instant Riverside, September 10 2009.
- “Police Arrest Twenty-One in Brothel Sting”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, January 7 2010.
- “Moreno Valley: Police Bring Down Neighborhood House of Prostitution”, Southwest Riverside News Network, September 14 2012.
- “Moreno Valley: Nearly a Dozen Nabbed in Prostitution Sting”, Southwest Riverside News Network, April 19 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Prostitution Bust on Sunnymead Boulevard”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 20 2013.
- “L.A. County Sheriff’s Deputy Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Los Angeles Times, October 15 2013.
- “L.A. Sheriff’s Lieutenant Arrested in Moreno Valley Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KABC-TV 7, October 15 2013.
- “Sheriff’s Lieutenant Among 21 Arrested in Moreno Valley Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, October 15 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: 21 Men Arrested in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, December 6 2013.
- “Moreno Valley Prostitution Sting”, Fallbrook Valley News, December 6 2013.
- “21 Men Arrested in Undercover Prostitution Sting in Moreno Valley”, FOX/KTTV-TV 11, December 7 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: 32 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 19 2014.
- 25 Men arrested in reverse sting. June 8, 2014.
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “School Board Member Used Position to Recruit Prostitutes, Officials Say”, Los Angeles Times, April 6 2012.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Bailed-Out Trustee Mike Rios Vows to Attend School Board Meetings”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 18 2012.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Witness Says Rios Ran Prostitution Business from Home”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, August 10 2012.
- “Witness: School Board Member Recruited Me into Sex Business”, Fallbrook Valley News, January 30 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Prostitute Testifies About Alleged Rios Rape”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 31 2013.
- “Ex-School Board Member Gets 14 Years for Pimping”, Cal State Fullerton’s Daily Titan, March 11 2013.
- “Moreno Valley Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Prostituting 14-Year-Old Girl”, Southwest Riverside News Network, March 12 2013.
- “Moreno Valley Woman Faces Child Prostitution Charges, 12 Years Prison”, ABC/KESQ-TV 3, March 13 2013.
- “Sex-for-Sale Posts Add to Prostitution Problem in Southern California”, NBC/KNBC-TV 4, March 29 2013.
- “5 Accused of Abducting Teen from Compton Allegedly for Prostitution”, CBS/KCAL-TV 9, August 18 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Kidnappers Wanted Victim to Become Prostitute”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, August 18 2013.
- “Woman, 4 Men from South Bay Arrested in SoCal Abduction, Prostitution Plot”, CBS/KPIX-TV 5, August 19 2013.
- “Pimp Pleads Guilty in Sex Trafficking Ring”, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 15 2014.
- Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Male Day Laborers Turn to Prostitution”, La Opinion, December 22 2007.
- “Prostitution Ring Busted After Undercover Operation Takes Place”, Fallbrook Valley News, April 16 2012.
- “Suspected Pimp and Prostitutes Arrested During Undercover Sting in Moreno Valley”, Southwest Riverside News Network, January 25 2013.
- “MORENO VALLEY: Investigation Results in Arrest of Suspected Pimp and Prostitute,” Riverside Press-Enterprise, November 25 2015.