L.A. County deputies rescue woman allegedly kidnapped for sex trade

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced the arrest of three people charged with abducting a 20-year-old woman and taking her to the Bay Area with the intent of sexually exploiting her during a hellish five-day span, investigators said Wednesday.

Rico Clayton, Chad Miller and Monique Butler were arrested March 2 and charged in a kidnapping plot that spanned from Los Angeles County to Oakland, sheriff's officials said.

The victim and Butler had worked together for years, according to Capt. Merrill Ladenheim, who leads the sheriff's task force on human trafficking. On Feb. 26, Butler invited her to a birthday party in Palmdale, but when the woman arrived, she was attacked by Miller and Clayton, Ladenheim said.

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"This was something that was completely unexpected, of course, by our victim," he said.

The two men "viciously assaulted" the woman and drove her to Oakland, where they took pictures of her that were posted to Backpage.com. The woman was then taken to Orange County, according to Ladenheim, who said at least one of the suspects brandished a gun in her direction at some point during the ordeal.

While she was being held captive, the woman managed to place two panicked phone calls to her mother.

The Sheriff's Department became aware of the kidnapping on March 1, and found the victim in a Buena Park motel hours later. She was rescued and the suspects were subsequently captured a few hours later, investigators said.

All three suspects were charged with conspiracy and pandering. Clayton also faces charges of pimping and false imprisonment by force, and Miller was also charged with pimping, police said.

Ladenheim said detectives believe the trio have been involved in other kidnapping and trafficking cases.

“The level of sophistication, the expediency with which they provided her with a nickname and moniker for the purposes of sexual exploitation … this was something that was very, very familiar to this trio, and very, very disconcerting to us," he said.

The Sheriff's Department formed a task force to combat human trafficking late last year, and the unit has rescued 60 victims since then, according to Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who said many of those victims were between the ages of 14 and 17.

"This is a vivid example of why we must dismantle the criminal enterprises that continue to perpetuate this horrific crime," McDonnell said of the recent arrests.

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