Couple arrested in Sacramento County, accused of sex trafficking two 17-year-olds

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A husband and wife were arrested on Sunday, accused of sex trafficking two 17-year-old girls, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.Officials said a sheriff’s deputy was patrolling near Watt Avenue and Winona Way in North Highlands around 8 p.m. when he observed two young girls wearing lingerie near a vehicle. The deputy spoke to both girls and discovered they were victims of sex trafficking, the sheriff’s office said.Officials said detectives learned the two girls were being trafficked by family friends, later identified as 46-year-old John Cheso and 35-year-old Shannon Powell. The girls referred to Cheso and Powell as their “street parents,” the sheriff’s office said.”it’s very rare that we are able to go from contacting a victim to arresting their pimp like that,” said Sgt. Amar Gandhi. “That’s was really significant about this case.” Cheso and Powell were arrested on felony human trafficking charges.The sheriff’s office said both remain in custody on Monday. Cheso is held on a $2 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on June 26. Powell is held on a $1 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on June 25.Detectives believe there may be additional sex trafficking victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 916-874-5115.The sheriff’s office said the deputy who found the two victims had just rescued another young girl who was also being sex trafficked. Victim advocate Leia Schenk said Monday that city and county leaders need to do more to provide wraparound, 24-hour services to victims to ensure they have a safe place to be in the hours and days after getting off the street.”It’s always good to know that we’re trying to clean up the streets when it comes to traffickers but for me, I always think of the victims. What happens to them?” she said. Schenk founded Empact, an organization that supports at-risk youth and victims of trafficking. She said too often trafficking victims do not have a safe place to go outside of the care of their trafficker and are forced back into a situation of having to exploit themselves to survive.”They will run to that life if they think that’s all they’re good for,” she said. “They make sure that they eat, that they have somewhere to live but at the end of the night they’re going to sexually exploit you and they’re going to force you to go out and sell your body against your will.”Schenk is working to raise funds to start a permanent safe house for victims in Sacramento County and fund a round-the-clock outreach team as human trafficking continues to be a pressing issue in Sacramento County. She said for survivors, services can be hard to come by outside of business hours.”We need something more concrete because this is bigger than us. It is huge and we’re not able to stay on top of it,” she said.KCRA 3 Investigates spent a year talking to sex trafficking survivors, advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement about the problems they’re seeing on the streets and what they think needs to change. Learn more here.See more coverage of top California stories here | Download our app.

A husband and wife were arrested on Sunday, accused of sex trafficking two 17-year-old girls, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials said a sheriff’s deputy was patrolling near Watt Avenue and Winona Way in North Highlands around 8 p.m. when he observed two young girls wearing lingerie near a vehicle. The deputy spoke to both girls and discovered they were victims of sex trafficking, the sheriff’s office said.

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Officials said detectives learned the two girls were being trafficked by family friends, later identified as 46-year-old John Cheso and 35-year-old Shannon Powell. The girls referred to Cheso and Powell as their “street parents,” the sheriff’s office said.

“it’s very rare that we are able to go from contacting a victim to arresting their pimp like that,” said Sgt. Amar Gandhi. “That’s was really significant about this case.”

Cheso and Powell were arrested on felony human trafficking charges.

The sheriff’s office said both remain in custody on Monday. Cheso is held on a $2 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on June 26. Powell is held on a $1 million bail and is scheduled to appear in court on June 25.

Detectives believe there may be additional sex trafficking victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 916-874-5115.

The sheriff’s office said the deputy who found the two victims had just rescued another young girl who was also being sex trafficked.

Victim advocate Leia Schenk said Monday that city and county leaders need to do more to provide wraparound, 24-hour services to victims to ensure they have a safe place to be in the hours and days after getting off the street.

“It’s always good to know that we’re trying to clean up the streets when it comes to traffickers but for me, I always think of the victims. What happens to them?” she said.

Schenk founded Empact, an organization that supports at-risk youth and victims of trafficking. She said too often trafficking victims do not have a safe place to go outside of the care of their trafficker and are forced back into a situation of having to exploit themselves to survive.

“They will run to that life if they think that’s all they’re good for,” she said. They make sure that they eat, that they have somewhere to live but at the end of the night they’re going to sexually exploit you and they’re going to force you to go out and sell your body against your will.”

Schenk is working to raise funds to start a permanent safe house for victims in Sacramento County and fund a round-the-clock outreach team as human trafficking continues to be a pressing issue in Sacramento County. She said for survivors, services can be hard to come by outside of business hours.

“We need something more concrete because this is bigger than us. It is huge and we’re not able to stay on top of it,” she said.

KCRA 3 Investigates spent a year talking to sex trafficking survivors, advocates, lawmakers and law enforcement about the problems they’re seeing on the streets and what they think needs to change. Learn more here.

See more coverage of top California stories here | Download our app.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.