A man and a woman who allegedly forced a 14-year-old runaway to walk the streets near Knott's Berry Farm as a prostitute have been charged under a recently approved law that toughens penalties for human trafficking.
Under the new law, Chuncey Tarae Garcia, 33, could face life in prison if convicted of human trafficking of a minor by force or fear. He and Cierra Melissa Robinson, 27, Garcia's alleged accomplice, are in the first wave of people in California and the first in Orange County to be charged with human trafficking since the state's adoption of Proposition 35.
Garcia is accused of being a pimp and teaming with Robinson, who prosecutors say worked for him as his highest-ranking prostitute. A court appearance Friday was continued to April 3.
Robinson is accused of introducing the 14-year-old girl to Garcia late last month in another state, said Daniel Varon, a deputy district attorney. He would not say how or where they met.
Garcia and Robinson are accused of taking the girl to a motel room where they told the teen that she would now be working for them as a prostitute. The next day, Garcia and Robinson allegedly drove the girl to California.
The 14-year-old was forced to walk Beach Boulevard in Buena Park — identified by authorities as a high-prostitution area — to attract customers and given a $200 a day quota she had to meet, Varon said.
The girl was trained in the "rules" of prostitution by Garcia and Robinson and was told how much to charge for various sex acts, prosecutors said. Garcia is accused of posting ads featuring the girl on prostitution websites.
The girl was ordered to dress a certain way and was assigned to sit in the back driver's side seat of Garcia's black late-model Mercedes. She was ordered to address Garcia as "Daddy" or "Sir" and was prohibited from looking at black men because Garcia told her they might also be pimps and could interpret her look as an invitation to take her money, prosecutors said.
If the girl didn't make enough money, Garcia threatened to withhold her meals. He is also accused of raping the girl after her first day as a prostitute.
On March 1, prosecutors say, a Garden Grove police officer pulled over a car in a high-prostitution area because it had a broken headlight. Garcia, who was driving the vehicle, had a suspended license, authorities said. The officer became suspicious after he peered into the back seat and saw the girl.
"He could tell that she was underage," Varon said.
The officer later identified the girl as a missing person, and she was taken into protective custody. Garcia and Robinson were arrested at the scene.
Garcia has been charged with felony counts of human trafficking of a minor by force or fear, pimping a minor and forcible rape, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. Robinson has been charged with felony counts of human trafficking of a minor and pandering of a minor under 16 by procuring. She was also charged with one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
If convicted, Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 28 years to life in prison. Robinson would face a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. Both are being held in lieu of $1-million bail.
In November, California voters passed Proposition 35, which increased the maximum sentence for human trafficking of a minor by force or fear to 15 years to life in state prison, compared with eight years in state prison previously, according to prosecutors.