Child sex trafficking investigation leads to 10 arrests in Yakima County
YAKIMA, Wash. — Yakima police have arrested 10 men suspected of sexually abusing or raping a teenage girl as part of a child sex trafficking case and investigators anticipate more arrests will follow.
“We know that this is taking place, that there are individuals that are out there in our community that are willing to pay for sex with juveniles,” Det. Curtis Oja said.
The case started in early May, when patrol officers responded to reports of a juvenile under the influence. The arriving officers noticed her behavior was indicative of someone who was a victim of sex trafficking and began to ask her questions.
“During the investigation, a juvenile female revealed she was encouraged by a family member to engage in sex with multiple men in exchange for drugs and money,” police said. “The investigative process identified multiple ‘Johns’ that had paid the juvenile to engage in various sex acts.”
Oja said investigators have been able to find one other victim so far in the case.
On Thursday, police arrested 10 men — all Yakima County residents — in connection with the case, including:
- 29-year-old man arrested on suspicion of commercial sexual abuse of a minor, viewing depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor
- 35-year-old man arrested on suspicion of four counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 36-year-old man arrested on suspicion of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 37-year-old man arrested on suspicion of five counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor, five counts of third-degree rape of a child, communication with a minor for immoral purposes and distribution of a controlled substance to a person under 18
- 38-year-old man arrested on suspicion of third-degree rape of a child
- 47-year-old man arrested on suspicion of four counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 51-year-old man arrested on suspicion of four counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 55-year-old man arrested on suspicion of four counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 57-year-old man arrested on suspicion of three counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor
- 77-year-old man arrested on suspicion of six counts of commercial sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree child molestation
Oja said getting those 10 suspects off the street is a good step forward, but it’s also important that people know that this is still happening in the community.
“When people start to see juveniles in areas of town that are known for that type of activity, that’s usually a good warning sign,” Oja said.
Other warning signs, Oja said, include slipping grades, increased absences from school or missing school altogether.
“A lot of the juveniles that are in this type of situation are struggling emotionally and so they’ll engage in behavior such as running away, self-harm and they’ll turn to substance abuse as a way to cope,” Oja said.
Oja said if anyone suspects a juvenile might be in a similar situation, they can contact law enforcement directly or call 1-866-ENDHARM to speak with someone at the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.
During the investigation, detectives worked with the Yakima County Prosecutor’s Office, Child Protective Services, medical providers, protective services and victim advocacy programs.
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