Sunnyvale, CA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Sunnyvale is a city located in the Santa Clara Valley in northwest Santa Clara County, CA, and has a population of approximately 153,000 residents. Instances of prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the city and surrounding areas. Among the more serious issues associated with the city’s commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2015, a 32-year-old Oakland man was arrested and charged with sex trafficking of a teenage girl that officials believe he picked up from a bible study. According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, agents from the Human Trafficking Task Force got a tip from the San Jose Police Department that the victim was being advertised on — a website frequently used to post ads for prostitution. Undercover officers arranged to meet with the victim and recovered her from the hotel room. The sex trafficker was arrested on foot nearby. Officials said that he had $6,510 in cash and a key to the victim’s hotel room. In 2021, three male sex traffickers were arrested on sex trafficking charges after officers with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety responded to a local Motel 6 after receiving reports of a woman screaming for help. The woman was later identified as a sex trafficking victim by police. In their investigation, police said the suspects had conspired to sex traffic the woman from Fresno to Sunnyvale. All three offenders were arrested and booked at the Santa Clara County Jail on human trafficking charges. Two offenders were held on $500,000 bail while the third offender was held on $250,000 bail. Their identities and photos were included in reports by local media outlets.

Some cases of the local sex trade have involved involved child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal laws). For example, in September, 2022, a violent child sex trafficker was sentenced to more than 38 years in Federal prison, and his female co-conspirator was sentenced to 10 years, on multiple charges for their roles in a Bay Area conspiracy to exploit minors for child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in criminal law codes) and sex trafficking. According to the defendants’ guilty pleas and the evidence submitted at trial, the key defendant was the leader, primary facilitator, enforcer, and main financial beneficiary of the operation.  He admitted that over a 16-month period, he and three other defendants established and operated an illegal prostitution enterprise that exploited numerous women and children. They operated a commercial sex venture and recruited, enticed, harbored, and transported several minor females to work in prostitution and as “exotic dancers.” They rented rooms at various hotels and motels in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale for sex trafficking activities and told minor females not to tell anyone that they were minors.  The youngest of the victims were 15 years old at the time. The trafficker subjected both the child victims and his female co-defendants to physical and sexual abuse. They were isolated from their families and support systems; deprived of food and sleep; and given cocaine, alcohol, and other substances to keep them compliant.  They were deliberately supplied methamphetamine to keep them awake so they could meet nightly quotas.  Defendants posted online prostitution advertisements repeatedly over many months using pictures of the children posed naked. After one victim escaped and returned home, the traffickers sought to shame her by distributing videos of the victim being sexually assaulted by a “customer” on social media sites. The government’s sentencing memorandum described how three of the traffickers were heard on the video clips mocking the girl and laughing at her as she was raped.   The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the FBI, the San Jose Police Department, and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. In effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex in the city, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety has deployed demand reduction tactics such as reverse sting operations and public education. For example, in 2019, the Sunnyvale DPS detectives and members of the Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force conducted a joint prostitution operation at a local Sunnyvale hotel. The operation was specifically aimed to reduce and deter prostitution and sex trafficking-related crimes. A total of 17 law enforcement personnel worked together during the eight-hour operation. Eleven adult males were arrested at the hotel for misdemeanor charges of solicitation for prostitution. The male sex buyers were cited and educated on the victims created by prostitution and sex trafficking. In January of 2020, the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety partnered with Santa Clara County’s Law Enforcement to Investigate Human Trafficking Task Force (LEIHT) as part of the statewide sex trafficking and prostitution investigation, “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild.” The investigation was conducted at both the street-level and online. Sunnyvale and LEIHT conducted operations at a Sunnyvale hotel that resulted in the arrest of two individuals on charges of sex trafficking, pimping, and pandering. In addition, officials made contact with five victims, four of who accepted advocate assistance. According to reports, the goals in the Sunnyvale operation were to identify and arrest sex buyers and sex traffickers and rescue and provide resources to the sex trafficking victims by connecting them to sex trafficking advocates. Advocates from Santa Clara County’s Community Solutions and YWCA were on scene as an integral part of the operation.

In addition to apprehending sex buyers through operations focused on prostitution and sex trafficking, police have also apprehended sex buyers as the result of additional investigations or from residential reports to police. For example, in 2011, a Menlo Park Officer was arrested for soliciting prostitution during an investigation that began as a probation warrant search on 32-year-old Sunnyvale woman. According to reports, the sex buyer told told Sunnyvale police that he was a Menlo Park detective and had gone to Sunnyvale to serve a subpoena duty and had an “hour to kill” because the person he was trying to serve wasn’t home yet. He also revealed to officers that he had solicited the prostituted woman on My Redbook, a website commonly used to advertise sexual services, in addition to that it was not the first time he had solicited sex from a prostituted woman. Officials from Menlo Park would not confirm that the sex buyer had been arrested or discuss the disciplinary measures taken against the officer. The officer was allegedly dismissed from duty as a result of his arrest however, Menlo Park reinstated the officer after he challenged the city’s undisclosed disciplinary action against him. The sex buyer’s identity was released police to local media outlets.

Employment loss is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2007, a former Sunnyvale police officer was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for aiding two brothels avoid police raids, recovering women who had escaped from the sex trafficking operation, and collecting tens of thousands of dollars in false immigration fees from employees who were illegal immigrants. The former crime scene investigator, defensive tactics instructor, and longtime SWAT team member with the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, pleaded guilty in January 2005 to two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion. He was originally arrested on the charges in 2002, after federal authorities revealed his part in a sex trafficking scheme where the former officer amongst others would smuggle women from Korea to the United States, charging them tens of thousands of dollars for the trip, and sex traffic them at the two South Bay brothels until they repaid debts, some up to $30,000. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow said that the offender jeopardized the safety of his colleagues when he alerted brothels to impending raids. Further, Nedrow asked the judge to sentence Miller to a year in prison, saying the former officer, “used his position of authority to put very vulnerable people in a position where he was getting sexual benefits from them.” To federal prosecutors and probation officials, the most serious misconduct centered on the offender warning club owners of police raids and traveling with them to Hawaii and Las Vegas to recover women who had escaped from the sex trafficking operation. As a result of his arrest in 2002, the former officer was immediately placed on an indefinite administrative leave. The offender had been with the Sunnyvale department as an officer for 15 years. The former officer’s identity and photo were included in reports by local news sources.

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Fired and/or Resigned Due to Arrest:

Public Education:

Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM, Violence:

State California
Type City
Population 152569
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