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‘Operation Better Pathways’ results in mostly misdemeanor charges

Because of the operation, 38 people were charged with misdemeanors and 4 charged with felony sex trafficking.

SAN DIEGO — Last week, local law enforcement announced 48 people were arrested in San Diego and National City as part of a sex trafficking sting called "Operation Better Pathways."

Police said they conducted 17 undercover operations in January and February, putting a major dent in human trafficking crimes in San Diego County.

“This operation significantly disrupted but did not eliminate human trafficking,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said during a law enforcement news conference on Feb. 21.

Marquis Davis, 30, was one of the people arrested, but not on sex trafficking charges. Officers arrested Davis on Jan. 23 for violating the terms of his probation.

Davis previously had been convicted of attempted pimping stemming from an incident nearly two years ago off Dalbergia Street in San Diego; the same area where police conducted the recent undercover operation.

Because Davis was on felony probation, he could be arrested for something as simple as possession of alcohol.  As a result, he’s been in jail for the past month.

On Feb. 27, Davis waived his right to an evidence hearing. He will be back in downtown Superior Court on March 6, where he is expected to admit his probation violation.  His probation likely will be reinstated.

CBS 8 analyzed the 48 arrests associated with Operation Better Pathways:

  • 38 resulted in misdemeanor prostitution charges (mostly involving alleged sex buyers).
  • 4 defendants were charged with felony sex trafficking in either state or federal court.
  • 2 arrests were for probation violations.
  • 1 felony case is still pending, according to the District Attorney's office.

As opposed to misdemeanor prostitution charges, sex trafficking charges are much more serious felonies. They typically involve trafficking of a minor, as well as forced or coerced prostitution of adults.

Last week, police said officers rescued eight minors during the operation.

“The youngest victim rescued during this operation was 13 years old. She was seen walking the street and waiting for someone to buy sex from her,” said SDPD Chief Dave Nisleit during the news conference.

Because the cases involve juveniles, CBS 8 was unable to independently confirm that officers rescued eight minors. However, the involvement of minors is alleged in court records.

One of the four defendants arrested in the sting operation and charged with felony sex trafficking was Clifford Stokes, Jr, age 22. Court records allege he was trafficking two 16-year-old girls and a 19-year-old woman in the area of Dalbergia Street at the time of his arrest on Jan. 17.

Officers wrote in a probable cause affidavit they observed the women exit a Toyota Corolla with Arizona plates and walk to Dalbergia Street, and then return to the vehicle after seeing police officers.

When SDPD officers pulled over the Toyota, Stokes was driving. The teens were later determined to be missing juveniles from Arizona.

Investigators reviewed text message exchanges between Stokes and the females, and concluded that "this text message exchange is indicative of a pimp/trafficker attempting to recruit someone into sex trafficking." according to the federal complaint.

Stokes was charged in federal court and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sex trafficking.

On Jan. 26, a 16-year-old girl called 911 and reported that she was being “threatened and trafficked by her pimp,” Gabriel Joseph Gonzalez, according to a federal complaint.

The juvenile told officers she had run away from a Los Angeles group home, and Gonzalez made her sell herself for sex on Dalbergia Street in San Diego and on Roosevelt Ave. in National City.

Members of the Human Trafficking Task Force reviewed text messages between the teen and Gonzalez, and arrested him at the Motel 6 on Roosevelt Ave in National City on Jan. 26, according to the complaint.

Gonzalez is scheduled to be arraigned on March 2 in San Diego federal court.  He also faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

On Jan. 10, an 18-year-old woman contacted San Diego police and “advised SDPD that she had been forcibly sex trafficked" by Darrell Davis, age 20, according to federal court records.

The teen said she had met Davis in March 2022, when she was age 17, the records allege.

Task force officers reviewed text messages between Davis and the teenager, according to court records, and arrested Davis outside the Hotel Milagro in Chula Vista on January 11.

Darrell Davis is charged with sex trafficking in San Diego federal court and faces up to 20 years, if convicted.

Another defendant, Abdul Richardson, age 30, is charged with human trafficking and pandering in state court. Richardson’s next appearance in San Diego court is set for March 9.


WATCH RELATED: Sex trafficking operation in San Diego makes 48 arrests, 8 children rescues 

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