2016 Staffing
Support Staff4

The Sex Crimes and Human Trafficking Division is comprised of a highly-trained and specialized team of Deputy District Attorneys, District Attorney Investigators, paralegals and secretaries who are all dedicated to aggressive and just prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault and human trafficking crimes. Guided by Division Chief John Rice and Assistant Chief Patrick Espinoza Jr., the division strives to treat the victims of sexual assaults with compassion, dignity, and respect.

Attorneys and staff in this division handled a number of significant cases including prosecutions for sexually motivated homicide, sexual assaults by strangers, acquaintances or family members, lewd acts with children, non-domestic violence stalking, human trafficking, pimping, pandering, failing to properly register as sexual offenders, indecent exposure and civil commitments of sexually-violent predators.

Human trafficking prosecutions are on the rise, primarily in conjunction with pimping and pandering charges. Felons intent on profiting from this illicit business seduce vulnerable young women and minors into prostitution throughout the county. The division not only prosecutes offenders, but it works with law enforcement and community-based organizations, which try to rehabilitate victims and re-integrate them back into society. The division has one Deputy District Attorney and two District Attorney Investigators assigned full-time to the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, a multi-agency organization which seeks to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking in the county through a comprehensive, collaborative and regional response.

The division is committed to protecting the community from sexually-violent predators through the pursuit of civil commitment petitions resulting in hospitalization and treatment of those offenders found to be a substantial danger to the public. The division works to keep the public safe and informed as sexually-violent predators reach the community treatment phase through community notification and public meetings.

The Ugly Truth

The District Attorney’s Office launched a public outreach campaign highlighting the myths surrounding human trafficking with a series of ads, billboards and radio spots. “The Ugly Truth” campaign grew out of a simple belief:  that until the public understands the truth about the conditions that drive women and girls into the sex trade – and the violence prostituted persons are likely to encounter while working in it – we will lack the community consensus or public will that can lead to change. The goal aimed at changing minds, hearts and public policies on commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking in San Diego County.

Significant cases in 2016 included:

People v. Luis Ramos
A 17-year-old young woman, who went to an oral surgeon to have her wisdom teeth removed in January 2016, awoke from anesthesia to a 36-year-old member of the surgical staff touching her breasts inappropriately. The victim reported the incident to law enforcement, which obtained a search warrant for the clinic’s video surveillance system. In addition to the reporting victim, the videos revealed 12 additional victims of felony and misdemeanor sexual battery and one count of sexual penetration. Luis Ramos pleaded guilty to charges involving all of the victims and was sentenced in August 2016 to 15 years in state prison.

People v. Marco Villasenor
On March 2, 2016, a 25-five year old woman was walking to her car at the end of working her shift in a La Jolla hair salon. The defendant, Marco Villasenor, approached her from behind, grabbed her and sexually-assaulted her. He took her to the ground and continued with the assault as she screamed for help and resisted. She struck him in the head with a self-defense item attached to her keyring and was able to get away and call 911 for help. The defendant was caught a short distance away, out of breath, but denying any type of altercation. DNA on his hands matched the victim. During the trial, Villasenor claimed he and the victim had a brief amorous street encounter. The jury found the defendant guilty and a judge sentenced him eight years in state prison.

People v. Kenneth Tenner
In January 2003, a 79-year-old woman was home alone taking a nap, when she awoke to an intruder in her bedroom. The assailant tore off her pajama pants attempted intercourse, then forced the victim to orally copulate him. Her neighbor stopped by to check in on the victim and caught the assailant in the act. After a brief verbal exchange with the neighbor, the suspect fled the scene. The victim submitted to a sexual assault examination and DNA of the assailant was collected from her body. The unidentified man’s DNA was submitted to the CODIS DNA database, but there was not a match at that time and the case was closed. The victim died in 2007 from natural causes. In April 2015, the defendant was identified through the CODIS DNA database based when a DNA sample was collected after a domestic violence arrest of in January 2015. Local property records confirmed that the defendant lived one block from the victim at the time of the offense. The case proceeded to trial based on the spontaneous statements of the victim, the observations of the neighbor, the DNA collected and injuries noted during the sexual assault examination. The defendant was convicted after a jury trial and sentenced to 14 years in state prison.

People v. Berlin, Dick and Smith
Two friends partied in the Gaslamp until closing time in October 2013 and met defendants Smith and Dick while waiting for an Uber. They agreed to go back to a nearby apartment with the two men to continue celebrating. Once inside, the two men separated the women and the more intoxicated woman went to a bedroom with Smith. Dick hid the other woman’s cell phone to prevent her from communicating with her intoxicated friend. When she finally realized what was going on and went to find her friend, the friend was found unconscious on the bed with Smith and Berlin both naked in the room with her. The men turned out to be part of “Efficient Pick-Up.Com” an internet site that advertises training boot camps for wannabe pickup artists. Smith and Dick were trainers and Berlin was a student. Berlin and Dick pleaded guilty, but Smith went to trial and was convicted of rape of an unconscious and intoxicated person. All three defendants received eight-year prison sentences.