Man sentenced to 12 years behind bars for sex trafficking teen in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — A Pomona man was sentenced to twelve years in prison in a San Diego federal court Monday for sex trafficking a 15-year-old girl, according to the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

Gabriel Joseph Gonzalez, 20, had pleaded guilty to one charge of sex trafficking a minor last year after the victim, a runaway living at a group home in Los Angeles County, was rescued by the San Diego Police Department in late January.

“Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of a minor is inexcusable,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said of the case in a statement. “At the California Department of Justice, we are fighting to hold perpetrators accountable and help survivors get a fresh start.”

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According to prosecutors, Gonzalez, who had known the victim since she was 13 years old, enticed the teen to leave the group home to engage in commercial sex work in early 2023. He then transported her to San Diego, where she was forced to walk areas known for prostitution.

After several weeks, she escaped to call 9-1-1 and was later rescued by SDPD on Jan. 26 — around the time the department was conducting a major human trafficking operation that led to the arrest of 48 people and rescue of 16 trafficking victims, including eight children.

It is unclear whether Gonzalez’s victim was counted as one of the individuals saved in the operation in the numbers provided by law enforcement.

“The victim’s courage to call 911 in this case was extraordinary,” U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath said in a release. “Her trust in law enforcement demonstrated that when someone reports abuse, the public servants in this community are all hands on deck to bring abusers to justice.”

Gonzalez entered his guilty plea before a federal court several months after his arrest and his victim’s rescue, in July 2023. However, prosecutors say he attempted to continue trafficking the victim while in custody through jail cells.

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According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the federal judge’s decision to pronounce a 12-year sentence reflected this apparent “lack of remorse” in Gonzalez for his conduct in custody and “continued victimization of the minor.”

If you are living or working under threat of violence or extortion, or you suspect someone else may be, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center toll free, 24/7 Hotline: CALL: 888-373-7888 or TEXT BeFree or 233733.

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