BAKERSFIELD — California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the arrests of 22 suspects as part of a multiagency, four-day sexual predator apprehension operation in Kern County. “Operation Bad Barbie” targeted adults seeking to sexually exploit children by using undercover agents and detectives posing as minors offering sex for pay on online websites commonly used by victims of sex trafficking. These same websites are commonly accessed by predators to pay and meet victims for sex acts. Included in those arrested was one registered sex offender with a prior conviction for sexual assault involving a 14-year-old. Additionally, agents and officers rescued three sex trafficking victims who were with the suspects arrested. The victims were provided support through victims services.
“Sexual exploitation and the human trafficking of children will not be tolerated in California, period,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “I established DOJ’s Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Team to ensure that my office could provide targeted and aggressive support to help end this modern-day form of slavery in our state. I am thankful to all our partners for their work in this operation, as well our California DOJ agents who have made hundreds of arrests and helped countless victims since starting this work in 2021. We will continue to keep at it, every day, as one person exploited is one too many.”
“Maintaining a strong law enforcement presence in social media dating apps, and physical locations where human trafficking is known to occur is an important element of suppressing human trafficking,” said Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. “The success of this operation shows the commitment of law enforcement to combating human trafficking and child exploitation and offers a glimpse into how prevalent these horrific crimes are within our state.”
“These types of operations are vital to the safety of our children and families,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry. “Even though it is largely hidden from view, human trafficking occurs in our community. There is no typical victim, but they are often our most vulnerable community members. The perpetrators of these serious and violent crimes will be held accountable for their actions.”
The four-day operation, which concluded on Saturday, involved the collaboration of the California Department of Justice’s Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Team, Homeland Security Investigations, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Bakersfield Police Department, investigators from the Kern County District’s Attorney Office, and the California Department of Corrections Parole Division. The suspects were taken into custody and face charges by the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, including violations of Penal Code (PC) 266h-pimping, PC 266i-pandering, PC 236.1(c)(1)-human trafficking of a minor, PC 288.3-contacting a minor for the purpose of committing a felony, and PC 288.4-meeting with a minor for the purpose of committing a lewd act.
Attorney General Bonta launched DOJ’s Human Trafficking and Sexual Predator Apprehension Teams in June 2021. These teams, led by California Department of Justice, are located throughout the state including the Central Valley, Sacramento, and San Diego. The teams have taken significant action to support law enforcement partners in disrupting and dismantling human trafficking and the criminal exploitation of children. To date, the teams have arrested approximately 649 traffickers and assisted or supported 650 victims in operations including:
- “Operation Century Week” in San Diego in November 2022, resulting in the arrest of 30 individuals.
- “Operation Home for the Holidays” in San Diego, National City and Santee in December 2022, resulting in the arrest of 5 suspects, the assistance of 21 survivors, and the seizure of a high capacity magazine, a loaded firearm, and approximately 1.8 pounds of marijuana.
- “Operation Better Pathways” in San Diego and National City in February 2023, resulting in 48 arrested, 41 survivors assisted, and the seizure of two firearms, including a ghost gun.
- “Operation Reclaim and Rebuild” in San Diego, Fresno, and Sacramento counties in February 2022, resulting in the arrest of 30 suspects and the assistance of 72 survivors.
- “Operation Linkup” in Kings County in September 2021, resulting in the arrest of 17 suspects.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of men, women, and children for sex or labor through force, fraud, or coercion. Human trafficking does not require movement across borders. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were more than 1,300 human trafficking cases reported in California in 2020 — more than any other state in the nation. In California, human trafficking is prevalent in the hospitality, commercial sex, domestic work, and construction industries. Victims of human trafficking are also found among migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, providers of residential care, and in California’s garment sector.
If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to access help and services. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. Additional information and resources to support survivors of human trafficking are available here.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.