Calif. man might have underage prostitutes in Phoenix, authorities say

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By Matthew Seeman By Matthew Seeman

LAS VEGAS -- A man suspected of transporting a teenage girl from Minnesota to Los Angeles to engage in prostitution made his initial appearance in federal court Monday, and authorities believe he might have additional underage victims in the Phoenix area.

Authorities said Laron Darrell Carter, a 36-year-old Los Angeles resident, was arrested and taken into custody by agents from Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations after a year-long investigation. If convicted, Carter can be sentenced from 10 years to life in federal prison.

HSI agents began their investigation after Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies found a 16-year-old girl in Los Angeles who had been reported missing in Minneapolis, authorities said. According to court records, the victim said she connected with Carter over the phone through a mutual acquaintance. Carter persuaded her to come to California, saying she would be his girlfriend, and bought her a bus ticket.

The victim said that when she arrived, Carter took her to a hotel and made her pose for suggestive photos, according to authorities saying she would be working as a prostitute. The victim fled after a few days, but she said she returned to the hotel because she had no money or place to go. She alleged that Carter beat her and whipped her with a belt.

In January, authorities said the victim ran away after Carter allegedly slammed her head into a car window and forced her to engage in sexual activity, according to her testimony. She went to a nail salon, and she was subsequently taken into protective custody by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

During the course of the investigation, HSI officers said they learned Carter had been arrested January 2013 in Clark County, Nevada, on charges of pandering. An affidavit from that arrest alleges a similar situation, in which Carter took a 13-year-old girl from California to Las Vegas to work as a prostitute under threat of physical violence, sleep deprivation and malnutrition. Carter pleaded guilty to pandering and was released on parole in December.

Based on evidence they have found, HSI officers believes Carter could have additional victims in the Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Phoenix areas. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-866-347-2423 or visit the HSI website at http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp.