The Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force charged five men with sexually exploiting a minor in a case authorities hope serves as a warning to other predators.
“No matter how many ways predators continue to try to disguise their sexual abuse of children, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will never stop protecting these vulnerable victims,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a Feb. 2 press release.
“Working together we will continue to outsmart those who prey on innocent children, arrest them, and prosecute them. No child should have to suffer sexual abuse and we will hold these monsters accountable.”
Police revealed Feb. 2 that they charged the men with various acts involving the commercial sexual exploitation of a minor. The arrests followed a four-month investigation by the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.
Investigators launched the case last September after discovering the possible commercial sexual exploitation of a minor on a website called sugardaddymeet.com, Spitzer said.
One of the suspects is from Anaheim, and Anaheim police Chief Jorge Cisneros said that although sexual predators might think they can hide online, they can’t.
“The benefit of anonymity also works in law enforcement’s favor,” Cisneros said in a press release. “Let those looking to sexually exploit children, or any victim, be warned. We are investigating these crimes and will bring you to justice, which these suspects now know firsthand.”
The investigation led to the arrest of five men from throughout Southern California.
Mitchell Biela, a 31-year-old resident of Long Beach, was charged with one felony count of human trafficking of a minor, one felony count of pimping a minor for prostitution, and one felony count of pandering a minor.
Michael Araujo, a 48-year-old resident of Anaheim, was charged with six felony counts of lewd acts upon a child between the age of 14 and 15, six felony counts of oral sex with a minor, and 18 misdemeanor counts of soliciting, engaging or agreeing to engage in prostitution with a minor, and one felony count of sodomy of a minor.
Nick Rexford Walpert, a 59-year-old from San Diego, is charged with one felony count of meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, one felony count of attempted sodomy of a minor, and one felony count of attempted unlawful sexual intercourse, and one felony count of attempted oral copulation of a minor.
Michael Leija, a 40-year-old resident from Norwalk, was charged with 10 felony counts of lewd acts upon a child between the age of 14 and 15, and one misdemeanor count of solicitation, engaging or agreeing to engage in prostitution with a minor.
Juan Catalan, a 42-year-old from Gardena, was charged with one felony count of a lewd act on a child between the age of 14 and 15, one felony count of luring a child with criminal intent, one felony count of meeting a minor to commit lewd conduct, two misdemeanor counts of soliciting, engaging or agreeing to engage in prostitution with a minor and one misdemeanor count of arranging to meet a minor for lewd conduct.