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Press Release

Bakersfield Man Sentenced for Role in Sex Trafficking Enterprise at Desert Star Motel

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — A federal judge sentenced Roy Gene Drees, 48, of Bakersfield, today to four years in prison for use of facilities of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Jatin Bhakta purchased and began operating the Desert Star Motel at 516 South Union Avenue in Bakersfield in 2015. From 2015 through late 2020 the Bakersfield Police Department made numerous prostitution-related arrests and child rescues at the property. Drees lived and worked at the motel until a federal search warrant was executed on Jan. 22, 2021, at which time 15 prostitutes and three pimps were encountered along with Drees and Bhakta. While working at the motel, Drees intentionally helped the management and carrying on of the prostitution activity through various means, including through telephone calls, text messages, providing transportation, and making motel arrangements.

One pimp, Darnell Edwards, who had forced two minor females to engage in prostitution at the Desert Star, was sentenced on May 1, 2023, to 19 years and seven months in federal prison.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bakersfield Police Department, and the Parole Division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Gappa prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

Updated May 20, 2024

Project Safe Childhood