DANVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Officials arrested two suspects accused of operating a high-priced prostitution ring out of San Ramon and Danville for the last 14 years.
The San Ramon Police Department, Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office, and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force arrested 50-year-old James Joseph Jr. and his common-law wife, 34-year-old Avisa Lavassani, at their home. They also arrested 42-year-old Anthony Reynolds, accused of helping the couple.
Acting on information obtained through prior victims of Joseph Jr. and Lavassani, the San Ramon Police Department began an investigation into the current activities of the two trafficking ring heads. They operated out of San Ramon and later out of a home in Danville.
They arranged for women to be flown to rich clients around the country. Utilizing a months-long wire-tap, as well as field surveillance video, officials uncovered a wide-ranging human trafficking operation that stretched from California to Cleveland, to Miami and New York.
Contra Costa County Dep. District Attorney Aron DeFerrari said the women, between the ages of 18 and 25, were enticed with international make-up artist and modeling contracts. He added, "They were being lured in and forced into prostitution. There were a lot of ways they were kept in this business, namely by fear, and the ultimate intimidation that if they didn't cooperate they would be hurt or killed."
The operation was netting Joseph Jr. and Lavassani tens of thousands of dollars a week utilizing multiple trafficking victims at one time.
At least six women were being held in Contra Costa County. One of them escaped and led police to the home in Danville.
San Ramon Police Department Chief Joe Gorton released a statement saying: "This investigation has shown us that human trafficking does not stay within jurisdictional lines and it doesn't just happen in big cities or at ports and truck stops. Human trafficking can occur anywhere and it can be hidden in plain sight."
Police say it is an example that human trafficking and forced prostitution can happen anywhere, even in the most affluent communities. Residents ABC7 News spoke to said they were shocked.
"We know so many people in the community. It's shocking it could happen here," Danville resident Traci Butler said.
"And to have individuals in Danville being involved in it? It just doesn't seem real," Danville resident Mike Kelly said.
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson also released a statement saying: "We are committed to investigate and prosecute human traffickers in Contra Costa County. There is no room in our society for treating human beings as slaves and property that can be bought and sold. The San Ramon Police Department and the FBI Safe Streets Task Force did an outstanding job in working this complex and highly involved case."
Read the story of one of the victims here.
Couple accused of running high-priced prostitution ring in Danville