HT Task Force Dismantles Internet Based Criminal Commercial Sex EnterpriseJun 22
San Diego, CA — Two men have been arrested on suspicion of serving as pimps and other charges in connection with an internet-based commercial sex enterprise in San Diego, authorities said Tuesday.
The arrests of San Diego residents Dale Vinzant, 68, and Christian Koalani, 66, were the result of a year-long investigation by the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, San Diego police Capt. Brian Ahearn said in a news release.
The pair are accused of being involved in a “criminal organization that enabled persons engaged in prostitution acts and their customers to negotiate the exchange of sex for money at the click of a button and under the cloak of a fee-based, members only website,” Ahearn said.
The online prostitution ring is believed to be the first of its kind ever uncovered in San Diego, according to police.
“This is groundbreaking,” Ahearn told reporters during an afternoon briefing.
Vinzant allegedly owned and operated a website called San Diego Adult Service Provider, which police described as an “internet-based meeting place where people engaged in the illicit sex trade and their customers could link up, negotiate a sex transaction, and, once the act took place, allowed the sex purchasers to write and post a review.”
This website enabled Koalani, the owner of American Escort Company, to post, advertise and ultimately profit from the sex acts provided by the young women he recruited and directed, according to Ahearn.
It was unclear how many might have been victimized, though investigators believe some 50,000 people — both clients and victims — had used the website over a period of years, Ahearn said.
Koalani, a Pacific Beach resident, is the author of “Story of An American Escort,” a novel based on his experiences in the underground sex trade, according to police. When he met Vinzant about 10 years ago, Koalani was running a pimping scheme via his Facebook page and proposed moving it to the latter man’s website for their mutual benefit, the captain alleged.
The suspects set up the illicit business under a veil of secrecy in an attempt “to wall off law enforcement,” only allowing potential customers access following a thorough vetting process, Ahearn alleged.
“It was very covert,” he said. “Not a lot of people knew about it — only those, really, who were members.”
Once on the website, however, clients and the women they were seeking to hire often were frank in their negotiations, according to Ahearn, who said investigators “saw language that was very specific, language that was very graphic.”
Authorities were alerted to the prostitution operation by a woman in her 20s who provided information about it after being contacted by police on an unrelated matter, Ahearn said. He declined to disclose details on the nature of her connection to San Diego Adult Service Provider.
The website has been shut down, with anyone trying to access it now directed to another one that provides information about human trafficking- related crimes and how to recognize and report them.
Police believe the online prostitution service boasted about 900 members at the time of the suspects’ arrests two weeks ago on suspicion of pimping, pandering, conspiracy, solicitation of prostitution and money laundering, Ahearn said.
To access the illegal services, members paid fees of roughly $15 a month or $100 per year, according to police.
With insight gained from the unique case, local authorities “will be actively involved in pursuing other similar types of business models that might be doing similar things,” Ahearn said.
“Both Vinzant and Koalani … lured vulnerable women into engaging in acts of prostitution with offers of drugs and money in exchange for their offering themselves to clients as part of a large-scale sex for money enterprise,” Ahearn said.
The San Diego Police Department secured the necessary arrest and search warrants in the case through the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with the California State Department of Justice, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI.
The service of the warrants resulted not only in the arrests of both men but also the collection of evidence such as computers, other electronic media and assets tied to the business, according to Ahearn.
Koalani was arrested June 2 at his Pacific Beach residence and booked into jail on suspicion of pimping, pandering and conspiracy charges. His bail was set at $500,000.
Vinzant was arrested June 3 in the Mission Bay area. He was booked into jail on suspicion of pimping, pandering, solicitation of prostitution and money laundering charges. His bail was set at $150,000.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office agreed with the arrest charges against both men, and has filed the charges, according to Ahearn.
Koalani was due in court Tuesday for a readiness conference and again Thursday for a preliminary hearing.
Vinzant’s next court dates are a readiness conference on July 22 and a preliminary hearing on Aug. 11.
The San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in January 2015 to “disrupt and dismantle human trafficking and child exploitation organizations through a comprehensive, collaborative and regional law enforcement and prosecution response,” according to Ahearn.
***Updated at 4:25 p.m. Pacific Time; Originally posted at 12:31 p.m. Pacific Time, June 14; 2016***
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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