Case # 15NF2540
Date: September 18, 2015
THIRD-STRIKER TO BE ARRAIGNED FOR USING SOCIAL MEDIA IN PANDERING, ATTEMPTED HUMAN TRAFFICKING, AND PIMPING OF FICTITIOUS MINOR GIRL
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A third-striker is scheduled to be arraigned today for using social media in pandering and attempted human trafficking and pimping of a fictitious minor girl. Robert Charles Ellett, 32, Hawthorne, is charged with one felony count of attempted human trafficking of a minor, one felony count of attempted pimping of a minor, one felony count of pandering, and sentencing enhancements for seven prior strike convictions for robberies in Orange County in 2005. If convicted, Ellett faces a maximum sentence of 26 years to life in state prison. Ellett is being held on $1 million bail, and must prove that the money has come from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned today, Sept. 18, 2015, in Department CJ-1 Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.
Circumstances of the Case
Ellett is accused of being a human trafficker/pimp who exploits women for financial gain. With the rise in popularity of social media and ease of meeting people on the Internet, many pimps and human traffickers utilize a variety of social media to locate potential victims. Pimps often require their victims to turn over all payment they receive for sex acts from sex purchasers.
Between July 23, 2015, and Sept. 16, 2015, Ellett is accused of contacting undercover officer Jane Doe, who he believed to be a 17-year-old girl, on social media. Ellett is accused of attempting to befriend Jane Doe and persuade her to perform commercial sex acts for his benefit. The defendant is accused of repeatedly attempting to recruit Jane Doe, and giving her instructions on how to perform commercial sex acts and to give him the money that she would receive from sex purchasers.
On Sept. 16, 2015, members of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) arranged a meeting with the defendant in Long Beach. The defendant is accused of driving to the designated meeting place with the intent to transport Jane Doe to areas known for prostitution and human trafficking in Orange County. The OCHTTF and Long Beach Police Department investigated this case and subsequently arrested the defendant at the scene.
Members of the 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 the OCHTTF, a partnership between the Anaheim Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Huntington Beach Police Department, OCDA, Orange County Sheriff’s 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.