Merced police rescue teen from alleged sex traffickers

MERCED, Calif (KFSN) -- Merced police have rescued an underage girl who they say was forced into sex trafficking.

Ashley Gonzalez and Samuel Packard are known by investigators to work together to exploit their victims.

"A lot of guys who are engaged in pimping will use a woman to approach somebody who they have selected because they are going to be a little less intimidated by a woman than a man," said Lt. Matt Williams.

On Wednesday afternoon police say they noticed an underage girl with Gonzalez near the Gateway Motel. Officers learned the victim was a 17 year-old from Fresno who was tricked and then forced into sex trafficking.

"When you find out one out of every three runaway girls is contacted by a pimp within 48 hours of being a runaway, that's really disturbing," added Williams.

Carissa Phelps is a human trafficking survivor. She was forced into prostitution in the Central Valley and is now an advocate who even worked with officers who made this arrest to raise awareness.

"Taking someone to another location, another geography is a way of keeping them trapped ," said Phelps.

About 24 hours after spotting the underage victim officers tracked both Gonzalez and Packard to a Fresno Motel.

Merced detectives have conducted several stings on this North Valley Street which they say has a history of sex trafficking. But management at Golden State Motel denied any problems.

"No prostitution which happens over here to my knowledge," said Kaushal Sharma with the motel.

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