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Several arrested in human trafficking operation in Merced County

The Merced Police Department has announced that it made several arrests during a 3-day-long human trafficking operation. (Left to Right: Armando Valencia, Kellen Cheadle, David Nason.)

The Merced Police Department has announced that it made several arrests during a 3-day-long human trafficking operation.

It took place from January 25-27 and involved the police department's DART and GVSU teams.

For the first two days, officers contacted online prostitution advertisements and arranged to purchase commercial sex workers in an attempt to determine if the workers were victims of Human Trafficking.

In total, six sex workers showed up at agreed upon locations and were interviewed by officers. Each worker was provided counseling and other services in an attempt to offer support to leave the commercial sex industry.

During those interviews, it was determined that two men, 23-year-old Phillip Garcia and 29-year-old Jake LeBeaux, were Pimping, Pandering, and Supervising Prostitutes that were detained during the operations.

Both LeBeaux and Garcia were arrested and booked for the charges.

During the last day of the operation, offices focused on arresting people who engage in purchasing sex acts through online advertisements.

The Merced Police Department DART Team with the assistance of the MPD GVSU (Gang Violence Suppression Unit) and the Fresno Office of the FBI arrested seven men when they arrived at the agreed upon location.

Officers arrested David Nason (33), Reginald Chandra (32), Juan Villanueva (37), Kellen Cheadle (27), Kenady Sims (33), Armando Valencia (37) and Carlos Molina (34) for solicitation of prostitution and all were given citations for the violations and released.

Merced Police are asking anyone with any information regarding these cases to contact Officer Rinder at (209) 385-7773, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text messages to police department by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.

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