LOS ANGELES - A man who responded to an Internet advertisement to have sex with a young girl has been arrested and now faces more than 15 years in prison.
Joshua Paul Crouch, 28, of San Pedro, was arrested Wednesday in San Pedro and charged Thursday with attempted sex-trafficking of a minor. This is one of the first prosecutions in Los Angeles under a recent change to the federal sex-trafficking statute.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint in the case, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and other law enforcement agencies, posted an online advertisement on the Internet using coded language in a ruse offering sex with young girls. The advertisement used catch words such as “daddy,” “petite,” and “young.” Crouch responded to the advertisement and was told by an undercover law enforcement agent that one of the girls advertised was “Cassie,” a 13-year-old girl. Crouch sought to have oral sex with “Cassie” in exchange for $60. Crouch chose "Cassie" instead of a 15-year-old girl who was also offered by the undercover agent. Crouch followed the directions provided by the undercover agent and was arrested when he arrived at “Cassie’s” hotel room. No actual minors were at risk or involved in the operation.
“Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and victimizes large numbers of women and children,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “This case demonstrates that law enforcement has changed its approach in combatting human trafficking, by now focusing on customers and commercial sex traffickers and by treating the women and children as crime victims. This defendant is one of the first individuals charged in Los Angeles under this federal statute, but he will not be the last.”
If convicted of the charge contained in the criminal complaint, Crouch would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years of imprisonment and a statutory maximum sentence of life.
“Individuals who pay for sex with minors are contributing in no small way to the current epidemic of teen and child sex-trafficking,” said Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “The coercion of minors into prostitution is unconscionable under any circumstances. We intend to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions, which rob the underage victims in these cases of their youth and their innocence.”
Crouch made an initial appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and was ordered released on bond.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
This case was investigated by HSI’s Human Trafficking Group, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and the U.S. Department of State.