SAN FRANCISCO: Couple Arrested on Human Trafficking Charges

February 19, 2013 for KTVU & Wires
“A San Francisco couple is behind bars Tuesday night for allegedly forcing three women and a teenage girl into prostitution at a South San Francisco hotel, police said.

South San Francisco police on Saturday arrested Sate Jones and Maria Jimenez, both 25, for human trafficking, pimping and pandering. They’re accused of recruiting a 17-year-old, two 18-year-olds and a 20-year-old woman under false pretenses.

“They responded to an ad soliciting a job,” South San Francisco Police Sgt. Bruce McPhillips.

Instead, the women were brought to the La Quinta Inn on South Airport Boulevard where police say the suspects witheld food, gave the women drugs, and forced them into prostitution.

Three of the women were from the Sacramento area, while the fourth was from Seaside near Monterey Bay.

Police say human trafficking is an on-going problem on hotel row in South San Francisco. That’s why they’ve reached out to hotel owners and clerks to train them to help identify the problem.

At the La Quinta Inn, a front desk clerk who’d gone through the training noticed something unusual and called police.

The clerk had allegedly seen Jones drop off four females who were staying in the two rooms, police said.

The victims also said they had been supplied with illegal drugs in order keep them working all night, police said.

When Jones and Jimenez returned to the hotel later that day, they were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, pimping and pandering, police said.

San Mateo County Assistant District Attorney Al Serrato told KTVU after voters passed Prop 35 in November, the penalties for human trafficking increased.

The maximum sentence used to be 8 to 12 years. Now, the maximum ranges from 20 years to life in prison if a minor is involved.

“We certainly I hope it acts as a deterrent, but quite frankly, it’s the right response,” said Serrato

Serrato said the district attorney will try to pursue that maximum sentence for Jones and Jimenez, since one of the victims at the hotel was just 17 years old.

Jones and Jimenez made their first court appearance on Tuesday, but did not enter pleas because they don’t have attorneys yet. Their next hearing is scheduled for February 26, when their attorneys will be assigned.

Bail was set for each at $350,000.

The case remains under investigation, and police are searching for a third suspect.

Police said they suspect Jimenez and Jones have a prior history of pimping, so there may be other victims out there. Anyone who recognizes the two suspects and has more information about them should contact South San Francisco police at (650) 877-8900.”

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