A collaborative law enforcement operation between Lathrop Police Services, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office and the Manteca Police Department back in February yielded nine arrests of people attempting to engage in sexual contact with a minor less than 14 years of age.
In the last week, however, they’ve arrested more than double that amount – taking 18 people into custody in the four days prior to an all-out blitz and prostitution sting on Friday night which netted four additional arrests for solicitation, one for burglary, and one for an outstanding warrant.
“The Sheriff has really pushed for the concept of a family-oriented department and almost all of us here tonight have kids and this is something that becomes a little bit personal for us,” said Acting Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, who led the operation. “These are people that want to hurt children and we want to do what we can to get them off the street and make the communities that we patrol that much safer.”
A former child abuse and sexual assault deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, Biedermann made it a point to prioritize these types of operations when he was assigned to Lathrop – where he patrolled earlier in his career – and with the backing of the Sheriff and the Lathrop City Council and neighboring agencies like Manteca, the two operations that have been run since he took over at Lathrop have netted more than two dozen people who were attempting to meet minors for sex in the community.
And all of the contact between the decoy deputies – who worked out of a room at Lathrop Police Services, and included Lathrop Police, San Joaquin County Sheriff, and Manteca Police officers – took place on websites that anybody with an internet connection has access to.
During a sting operation on Friday where decoy deputies posing as prostitutes and johns were deployed to the Quality Inn in Lathrop to work in conjunction with the underage decoy operation, the only people who actually came to meet the decoys were adults looking to have sex with other adults. Several deployments were made when suspects claimed they were in the area, but nobody was located and taken into custody.
But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t try.
With thousands of text messages that turned into phone calls, deputies built a plethora of evidence against suspects that committed crimes even though they didn’t physically drive to meet a child for sex – including sending explicit photographs and continuing a sexual conversation with the decoys long after they disclosed their age as minors.
Biedermann said that with the backing of the Sheriff and the other agencies he would like to see these types of operations happen regularly, noting that they not only snag people who attempt to meet children for sex, but also discourage others who may be thinking about trying.
“It sends a strong message to the community that we aren’t going to stand for these types of crimes here,” Biedermann said. “It’s truly a team effort and working with the media and exposing what we’re doing here lets people know that this isn’t something that we’re going to let slide in San Joaquin County.
“We just happen to be doing the operation in Lathrop today, but we’re bringing these guys in from all over – some from Sacramento and some from the Bay Area too. This extends far beyond just boundaries.”
Arrested on charges that include contacting a minor with intent for sex, arranging a meet with a minor for the purposes of sex and lewd or lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 were: Corey Fallquist, 49; James Crawford, 61; Victor Sanchez, 38; Andy Canche, 22; Jair Aguilar-Quiroz, 23; Andrew Ma, 39; Sergio Casillas, 26; Teofilo Adame-Zapata, 43; Anthony Fuentes, 48; Paul Lebarre, 57; Gary Pendergast, 48; Jagdeep Singh, 40; Jose Villanueva, 32; Barry Xiong, 28; Alberto Sosa-Lopez, 33; Barry Dias, 54; Nicholas Gross, 29; and David Joseph Alanis, 36.
Also arrested were Scott Roe, 37, for burglary, Tamerua Byrd, 21, on a no bail warrant, and Bernice Torres-Rangel, 19, Tadell Chaney, 21, Julio Cesar Pena-Castillion, 35, and Remato Afable, 34, for solicitation of prostitution.
Alberto Sosa-Lopez received additional weapons charged when deputies discovered a loaded handgun on him, and Jose Villanueva had drug charges filed against him for being in possession of a controlled substance that he was bringing to share with the underage decoy.
According to undercover deputies that work these cases frequently, it’s a common tactic to request that the suspect bring something with them – one noted that they asked a suspect to bring caramel sauce, and it was discovered in the vehicle when they were taken into custody.
Biedermann warns parents who are concerned about who their children may be talking to on the internet to monitor their progress and realize that all of the websites that were used for last week’s operation were accessible by any electronic device with an active internet connection – including gaming consoles.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.