LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Gardena man was expected in court Monday on charges of transporting a teenage Minnesota girl to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution, federal prosecutors said.
Laron Darrell Carter, aka “Birdd,” 36, arrested this morning in Las Vegas by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), according to Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
The arrest follows a yearlong investigation launched after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies rescued a 16-year-old girl in Los Angeles who had been reported missing from Minneapolis, Arnold said.
According to an affidavit, the teen, identified as Jane Doe 1, told investigators that she met Carter over the telephone through a mutual acquaintance. Carter subsequently persuaded her to travel to Los Angeles to meet him, promising to be her “boyfriend” and “take care of her,” and then bought her a bus ticket for the trip, according to prosecutors.
Investigators say that upon her arrival in the Southland, Carter took Jane Doe 1 to a local hotel, told her she would be working as a prostitute, and directed her to pose for suggestive photographs, which he then posted on the Internet.
Within days, the victim fled, but without money or a place to stay, she soon returned to the hotel where the defendant allegedly beat her and whipped her with a belt, according to Arnold.
In late January 2013, on the last night that prosecutors say Jane Doe 1 worked for Carter, he allegedly slammed her head into a car window and forced her to engage in a sex act with him. She later sought refuge in a nail salon and was ultimately taken into protective custody by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies.
“The manipulation and coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable,” said Arnold. “The defendants in these cases prey on the impressionable and the vulnerable, robbing them of their youth and their innocence.”
Carter is charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. If convicted, he could face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison.
Based upon information gathered during the investigation, authorities believe Carter may have additional unidentified underage victims in Southern California, Phoenix and the Las Vegas area. Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call HSI’s toll-free tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (1-866-347-2423) or submit information using HSI’s online tip form.