Man charged with pimping and human trafficking in Newport prostitution case
A prostitution bust at a Newport Beach hotel in February led detectives to a man suspected of coercing at least one woman into working for him in the sex trade, according to court documents.
Police allege that Michael Anthony Wimes, 26, of Inglewood threatened the woman in order to keep her working as a prostitute, warning her in text messages that she’d “see wat happen” if she stopped making money.
Wimes could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted of charges of human trafficking, pimping and pandering. He also faces a possible sentencing enhancement for having a 2011 kidnapping conviction in Los Angeles County, according to the Orange County district attorney’s office.
Wimes pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday.
Court documents detail how Newport Beach police ran an undercover prostitution sting at an extended-stay hotel near John Wayne Airport in February.
Police said they began by texting a woman they suspected was a prostitute. Investigators said they found her number on a website that frequently hosts ads for sexual services.
During an exchange of messages, the woman agreed to have sex for $160 with a detective posing as a customer, according to court files. When she arrived at a room at the hotel and took the money, she was arrested, authorities said.
Police said the woman denied working for a pimp or being a victim of human trafficking, but when officers searched her phone, they found a series of text messages with someone named “Gizmo O.”
Before heading to the Newport Beach hotel, the woman sent Gizmo, whom police say was Wimes, a screen shot of her conversation with the undercover detective.
“The conversation was clearly an agreement for an act of prostitution,” police wrote in court documents.
As police searched more than a month’s worth of texts, they found at least two messages in which the woman told Gizmo, “I made it poppa” or “I made it babe,” according to the documents.
Police allege those texts were telling Wimes that the woman had met a cash quota for prostitution work.
Gizmo and the woman repeatedly argued, according to partial transcripts of conversations in court files.
At one point, the woman reportedly texted, “I been tryin my hardest all night and morning to at least make the money that u asked for.”
According to police, the woman repeatedly said in text messages that she wanted to leave but was afraid.
In one message, authorities allege, Wimes wrote, “Dnt have no money n DA morning n see Wat happen.”
“This can be summarized as a cycle of violence type relationship,” police wrote in court documents. “These relationships are common when somebody exploits another person and uses various emotions to gain and maintain control.”
Police arrested Wimes on March 30. He is being held in Orange County Jail with bail set at $1 million.
Investigators say they are looking for other possible victims.