Orange County District Attorney, Press Release
For Immediate Release, Case # 13NF0325: June 5, 2013
SANTA ANA – Two men acting as pimps were arraigned today on charges of trafficking a victim from Mexico to Orange County and forcing her to engage in prostitution against her will to pay off a debt for an ill family member. Victor Lara Romero, 32, and Gustavo Romero Clemente, 35, both of Anaheim, are each charged with one felony count of human trafficking, one felony count of pimping, and one felony count of pandering by procuring. If convicted, both defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in state prison. Romero and Clemente were arraigned today post-preliminary hearing and are being held on $500,000 bail. They are scheduled for a pre-trial trial setting conference on June 26, 2013, at 8:45 a.m. in Department C-5, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
Circumstances of the Case
Romero and Clemente are accused of being pimps/modern-day slave owners who exploit women and/or children for financial gain.
Prior to December 2012, Romero is accused of being acquainted with 29-year-old Jane Doe in her hometown in Mexico and giving her money when a family member became ill. A few weeks later, Jane Doe was unable to repay the money and Romero is accused of telling her that he could smuggle her into the United States to work at a clothing store to pay off her debt. Romero is accused of arranging for Jane Doe to be smuggled into Southern California by way of Texas. He is accused of failing to set up a legitimate job for the victim.
Between Dec. 24, 2012, and Jan. 24, 2013, approximately one month after arriving in California, Romero is accused of moving Jane Doe into a room in Clemente’s Anaheim apartment. Once in Anaheim, Romero is accused of ordering Jane Doe to prostitute herself to repay the debt. When Jane Doe resisted and refused, Romero is accused of physically beating the victim on numerous occasions including strangling and punching her, burning her leg with a fork, and beating her with a belt. The defendant is accused of causing bruising to Jane Doe’s face and forcing her to wear makeup to cover the bruises.
Romero and Clemente are accused of isolating Jane Doe by limiting her to weekly or twice-weekly phone conversations with her family in Mexico and monitoring all of her calls. Clemente is accused of watching and guarding the victim while Romero was away to prevent her from leaving the apartment and escaping.
Romero is accused of obtaining “clients” for Jane Doe and dictating the amount of money she would charge for various sex acts. Both defendants are accused of collecting payment from the sex purchasers.
In January 2013, Jane Doe was able to call 911 using a cell phone left behind in the apartment by one of the defendants while Romero and Clemente were arguing outside of the apartment. The Anaheim Police Department (APD) responded to the scene, located the victim, and arrested the defendants.
Proposition 35 and HEAT
In November 2012, California’s anti-human trafficking Proposition 35 (Prop 35) was enacted in California with 81 percent of the vote, and over 82 percent of the vote in Orange County, to increase the penalty for human trafficking, particularly in cases involving the trafficking of a minor by force.
Under the law, human trafficking is described as depriving or violating the personal liberty of another person with the intent to effect a violation of pimping or pandering. Pimping is described as knowingly deriving financial support in whole or in part from the proceeds of prostitution. Pandering is the act of persuading or procuring an individual to become a prostitute, or procuring and/or arranging for a person work in a house of prostitution. Deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another includes substantial and sustained restriction of another’s liberty accomplished through force, fear, fraud, deceit, coercion, violence, duress, menace, or threat of unlawful injury to the victim or to another person, under circumstances where the person receiving or apprehending the threat reasonably believes that it is likely to be carried out.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Human Exploitation And Trafficking (HEAT) Unit targets perpetrators who sexually exploit and traffic women and underage girls for financial gain, including pimps, panderers, and human traffickers. The HEAT Unit uses a tactical plan called PERP: Prosecution, to bring justice for victims of human trafficking and hold perpetrators responsible using Prop 35; Education, to provide law enforcement training to properly handle human trafficking and pandering cases; Resources from public-private partnerships to raise public awareness about human trafficking and provide assistance to the victims; and Publicity, to inform the public and send a message to human traffickers that this crime cannot be perpetrated without suffering severe consequences.
This case was investigated by APD and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Varon of the HEAT Unit is prosecuting this case.
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff