Case # 16WF1188

Date: June 7, 2016


SANTA ANA, Calif. – A man was arraigned today for trafficking and attempting to pimp a minor teenage girl and was also charged for pimping and pandering another woman with his co-defendant. Marice Lavell Curry, 25, Fresno, is charged with one felony count each of human trafficking of a minor, attempted pimping of a minor, pandering with a minor over 16 years old by procuring, pimping, and pandering. If convicted, Curry faces a maximum sentence of 13 years and four months in state prison. Donald Ray Phelps Jr., 23, Fresno, is charged with one felony count of pimping and one felony count of pandering. If convicted, Phelps faces a maximum sentence of six years in state prison. They are both being held on $100,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. They were both arraigned today and are scheduled for pre-trial on June 15, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. in Department W-12, West Justice Center, Westminster.

Circumstances of the Case
Curry and Phelps are accused of being pimps/modern-day slave owners who exploit women and/or children for financial gain. Pimps often establish rigid rules that their victims are expected to follow. Victims are often required to turn over all payment they receive for sex acts from sex purchasers to their pimp. Failure to follow these rules can result in physical and/or emotional abuse.

Between May 13, 2016, and June 4, 2016, Curry is accused of trafficking Jane Doe 1, a teenage minor, and attempting to pander her by having her engage in commercial sex and attempting to collect the earnings she made from engaging in commercial sex. The defendants are accused of pandering Jane Doe 2 by encouraging and persuading her to engage in commercial sex and pimping her by collecting the money she earned from engaging in commercial sex and spending it to rent hotel rooms and travel expenses.

On the night of June 4, 2016, Curry is accused of soliciting commercial sex purchasers for Jane Doe 1 in an area known for prostitution and human trafficking in Costa Mesa. The defendants are accused of being parked in a vehicle nearby with Jane Doe 1. Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) officers saw Jane Doe 2 and approached her. CMPD located the defendants inside the vehicle a short time later and arrested them. 

Members of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) and the Orange County District Attorney’s (OCDA) Office work proactively to protect women and minors from falling victim to commercial sexual exploitation. This case was investigated by CMPD and OCHTTF, a partnership between Anaheim Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Huntington Beach Police Department, Irvine Police Department, OCDA, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Ana Police Department and community and non-profit partners.

Deputy District Attorney Brad Schoenleben of the HEAT Unit is prosecuting this case.

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.

A component of the OCHTTF is the OCDA’s Human Exploitation And Trafficking (HEAT) Unit, which 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.  

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.

Penal Code Section 236.1 defines:

(1) “Coercion” includes any scheme, plan, or pattern intended to cause a person to believe that failure to perform an act would result in serious harm to or physical restraint against any person; the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process; debt bondage; or providing and facilitating the possession of any controlled substance to a person with the intent to impair the person’s judgment.

(2) “Commercial sex act” means sexual conduct on account of which anything of value is given or received by any person.

(3) “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 that the person making the threat would carry it out.

(4) “Duress” includes a direct or implied threat of force, violence, danger, hardship, or retribution sufficient to cause a reasonable person to acquiesce in or perform an act which he or she would otherwise not have submitted to or performed; a direct or implied threat to destroy, conceal, remove, confiscate, or possess any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim; or knowingly destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or possessing any actual or purported passport or immigration document of the victim.

(5) “Forced labor or services” means labor or services that are performed or provided by a person and are obtained or maintained through force, fraud, duress, or coercion, or equivalent conduct that would reasonably overbear the will of the person.

(6) “Great bodily injury” means a significant or substantial physical injury.

(7) “Minor” means a person less than 18 years of age.

(8) “Serious harm” includes any harm, whether physical or nonphysical, including psychological, financial, or reputational harm, that is sufficiently serious, under all the surrounding circumstances, to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor, services, or commercial sexual acts in order to avoid incurring that harm.

(i) The total circumstances, including the age of the victim, the relationship between the victim and the trafficker or agents of the trafficker, and any handicap or disability of the victim, shall be factors to consider in determining the presence of “deprivation or violation of the personal liberty of another,” “duress,” and “coercion” as described in this section.