LAKEWOOD, Colo. - Five men and one woman are in custody, accused of prostituting children in Jefferson County. One additional suspect is still being sought.
The investigation into this case began in November of 2012, when one of the victims reported being sexually assaulted. According to Pam Russell, spokeswoman for District Attorney Peter Weir, the man identified by the child in that incident was later identified as the alleged leader of the human trafficking ring, Daniel Onodera.
Three female victims were identified by the investigation, Russell reported. One was 13-years-old and two others were 16.
"They had each run away from home, were truant from school and each had been lured into the prostitution net by drugs," Russell wrote in an announcement about the arrests. "Through the course of the investigation, a complex, multi-layer operation was uncovered in which young girls were given methamphetamine and forced to have sex with members of the ring, their associates or strangers in exchange for money or drugs allegedly paid to Onodera or other members of the prostitution ring."
Russell added that the alleged crime ring was based out of the Timberleaf Apartments at 1388 Garrison, Lakewood, between December 2011 and November 2012. The investigation of the ring was dubbed "Operation Timberleaf."
Onodera, 42, is charged with trafficking of a child, pimping of a child, sex assault of a child, solicitation of a child for prostitution, pandering, keeping a place of child prostitution, child prostitution - inducement, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two violent crime counts.
The other alleged members of the child prostitution ring are: Marshall Deron Ashton, 31; Nickolas Alan Silk, 23; Kevin J. Snuggs, 26; Pamela Jean Lewis, 57; and Zelian Ashbury Shaw, 20.
Investigators say the ring operated out of two apartments at Timberleaf.
Current tenants told 7NEWS they were stunned to learn about the allegations.
One said that after she moved in, investigators came to the door asking if she knew the people who had lived there prior.
"I didn't," she said.
“Human Traficking, the trafficking of children for prostitution, is a serious issue in Jefferson County and throughout the Denver metro area. Those who engage in this activity target and groom the most vulnerable of our youth.
"These defendants preyed upon young women, coercing them into sexual activity," Weir said in a quote provided within Russell's announcement, "The dismantling of this group disrupts their operations and is a significant step towards protecting other children from being lured into this sexually exploitive environment."
The seventh alleged member of the child trafficking ring is identified as Mark Wayne Turturice, 54. A warrant was issued for his arrest and anyone with information about him is asked to call Lakewood Police at 303-987-7111.