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Nearly 500 arrested in California human trafficking operation

LOS ANGELES — Authorities on Tuesday announced the results of a statewide crackdown on human trafficking that resulted in nearly 500 arrests and more than 80 sex workers being helped.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva detailed the results of the weeklong campaign, dubbed Operation Reclaim and Rebuild, which involved dozens of agencies around California. Villanueva said 34 people suspected of trafficking or exploiting sex workers were arrested, along with 201 people who were allegedly caught trying to buy sex. He did not account for the remaining arrests. About six dozen adults and eight minors were “rescued,” the sheriff said.

“All across the state, law enforcement agencies joined us to send a message to pimps, exploiters and buyers that it is unacceptable to buy another human being for sexual purposes,” Villanueva said.

In Pittsburg, a suburb in Contra Costa County, authorities caught a man who was allegedly running a prostitution ring nationwide. A search warrant turned up two handguns, an AR-15, a shotgun, body armor and 100 rounds of ammunition, Villanueva said.

In Costa Mesa, he said, officers scheduled a date online with a woman. Police conducted a traffic stop of the man who had been driving her, during which they found an unregistered loaded handgun. Villanueva said authorities determined the woman had been working for the man for two years, starting when she was a minor.

“That should kind of illustrate to you how pervasive this is, once they get their claws on someone, they’re going to continue exploiting them from childhood into adulthood,” Villanueva said.

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