Police in South San Francisco have taken into custody a San Francisco couple accused of running a vicious sex slavery ring out of a hotel room near San Francisco International Airport.
On the morning of February 16, law enforcement officials acted on a tip from a hotel clerk at La Quinta Inn on Airport Blvd. about possible prostitution activity occurring on the premises. The employee had noticed a man dropping off young females at the hotel, each of them renting different rooms, and then leaving them there for the rest of the day.
Last year, South San Francisco Police gave airport hotel and motel employees a training course in identifying the tell-tale signs of prostitution activity, an ongoing problem in the area.
When police went into the rooms, they found four women under the age of 20, one of whom was still a minor, reportedly engaged in prostitution under the direction of three suspects, including San Francisco couple Sate Jones and Maria Jimenez, both 25 years old.
Jones and Jimenez were arrested when they returned to the hotel later that day. Authorities are still on the lookout for a third suspect whose identity has not been revealed.
The victims, all from the Sacramento area, reported that they were given illegal drugs in order to stay up working all night and that their pimps regularly deprived them of food as they solicited customers online using the website Myredbook.com.
"They were treated like slaves by these people," San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe told the San Francisco Examiner, noting all of the women had been separated from their families.
The young women said they were forced into a life of prostitution under false pretenses. "They responded to an ad soliciting a job," Sgt. Bruce McPhillips explained to KTVU.
Since California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 35 last November, the maximum sentence for such crimes was raised to 12 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence for the trafficking of a minor.
The couple is currently being held in San Mateo County jail on $350,000 bail.
Officials note that Jimenez and Jones likely have a history of sex trafficking. Anyone with more information on the suspects should call the South San Francisco Police Department at (650) 877-8900.