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Oxnard Police Surveillance Shuts Down Two Houses of Prostitution and Leads to the Arrest of An Alleged Pimp


The detective said he was doing surveillance a couple of months ago at a house in the 400 block of West 4th Street in Oxnard that was suspected of being a place where prostitution was taking place.

Detective James Langford began to notice that across the street there was a steady stream of males going into the house that had a black pickup truck parked there.

He said males would go into the house and leave in 10 minutes or so.

"On average 10 per day, and as many as 25 in a day," Langford said.

He said he kept his eyes on this house and soon, he spotted a pattern: Every week different females lugging suitcases - one with a child - were arriving or leaving the house.

"There were new girls being brought into the house every week," said Langford.

Langford testified in the preliminary hearing of 45-year-old Cergio "Flaco" Garcia who is charged with felony pimping, a crime that could land him in prison for the minimum mandatory sentence of three years.

Garcia's lawyer Justin Tuttle, who is with the Public Defender's Office, told the judge that his client was willing to plead guilty to aiding and abetting in prostitution, a misdemeanor. Tuttle said the evidence wasn't sufficient to convict his client of felony pimping.

Langford and prosecutor David Russell disagree, saying that it appears that the house was being used for prostitution with the prostitutes being rotated every week, a different girl every week.

What about the house across the street?

Russell said that was unrelated to Garcia's operation, and it just happened that both were in the same business operating in the same neighborhood.

Russell said the neighbor across the street from the Garcia house has been charged with conspiracy to commit prostitution.

Russell put one of the prostitutes who knew Garcia on the stand - 28-year-old Soriya Perez who initially took the Fifth unless she was given immunity from being charged with more crimes via her testimony.

Perez had already pleaded guilty of misdemeanor prostitution.

Her lawyer Joel Steinfeld, who stood next to Perez while she was on the stand, said his client would refused to testify unless she got immunity.

Russell granted her immunity from prosecution if she answered the questions.  Through an Spanish interpreter and with Steinfeld's consent,  Perez told what she knew.

Perez testified that she read ad in a magazine in Las Vegas where she lived and decided to travel to Oxnard to engage in prostitution.  She got on a Greyhound Bus and arrived in Oxnard in October.

She  said she needed to make some quick cash to leave the county and go back home to Mexico.  Perez said Garcia picked her up at the bus station. They first drove to the Target store to get a week's supply of condoms.

Perez said she charged $40 for sex, and said she never talked to Garcia about giving him money.  She said she never saw Garcia sitting on the porch,  greet and talk customers walking up to the house.

Russell grilled Perez about Garcia's role,   about what kind of sex she offered and what Garcia knew and whether he protected her while she worked there.  Russell tallied up Perez's earnings for the week and came up with $1,080.

"What happened to the money?" Russell said.

Well, Perez said $480 was sent to a sister in Mexico who was sick, the rest was spent on clothes, shoes and a purse. Also she bought food with Garcia, and she denied giving Perez a cut of her earnings.

"No, I didn't give this young man any money," Perez said.

"You had to pay money to use the house for a week," Russell told her, adding that Garcia had already said he charged the prostitutes $240 a week.

Perez stuck to her story that Garcia didn't get a dime.

During her testimony, Perez was being video recorded because as soon as she is cut loose Perez will be deported to Mexico.  So, authorities want to record her testimony in case Garcia is tried.  Perez's recorded testimony will be shown to jurors.

Perez testified that she didn't see as many men as police say she did.

Perez said she was free to come and go any time she wanted; never locked up or threatened or struck by Garcia.

"He was very respectful and very kind to me," Perez testified, and they even shared the food.

Perez said Garcia would buy food one day, and she'd buy the next day.

But Detective Langford said his surveillance indicated that in one week in October, 23 males entered the house on Monday;  11 men went into the house on Tuesday; Wednesday, there were 10 males; Thursday, 9 males and Friday, 8 men.

On Oct. 25, a search warrant was executed and police found Perez inside the house dressed in a tight-fitting orange dress with her mid-section showing and her low-cut top showed cleavage.

 Langford said Perez had $170 in her purse and Garcia had $590 in his possession.  Langford said officers found condoms. bottles  of lubricants and a book with the name Manuel Cortez written on it.

Garcia used that fake name when he was arrested, Langford said.  The book had the names of females, weeks marked out and other information.

Langford said Garcia later admitted that he charged $240 a week to lease the bedroom and $60 for transporting the prostitutes from the bus station to his house. In addition, police found out that here were eight different women that had stayed at the house since Langford began his surveillance.

Garcia's told police that he's been in the pimp business for three months.

Langford said there were cards found near the statutes of saints. Perez said it was an offering to her saint, La Santa Muerte statue.

Langford, however, said the cards were a way to keep score using the Ace card to indicate the first customer and the numerical cards to indicate how many others a prostitute had sex with.

Garcia's lawyer Tuttle said in an interview that this case was "grossly over charged."

But Russell pointed out that nobody wants to live next door or in a neighborhood where men come and go to have sex.

"It's about the quality of life," said Russell.

Judge James Cloninger ruled that there was sufficient evidence to hold Garcia for trial.

 

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.