DHS man accused of sex trafficking of 17-year-old to stand trial

A judge ruled Friday that a Desert Hot Springs man must stand trial on charges of human trafficking of a minor and other charges related to the forced prostitution of a minor.

Members of the Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force (RCAHT) arrested Cerious Mark Anthony Griffin, 24, for a felony warrant last November.

The warrant alleged Griffin was involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of a 17-year-old female, Riverside Sheriff’s Sergeant John Sawyer explained at the time of Griffin’s arrest.

Task Force members arrested Griffin after a three-month long investigation that determined he was sexually trafficking the teenage girl via online and social media advertisements in cities throughout Riverside and Los Angeles counties; including Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Compton, Palmdale and Lancaster, according to Sawyer.

During their months-long investigation, the RCAHT task force’s investigation determined the victim, who has not been identified due to her age, conducted prostitution on a daily basis – often many times a day – at Griffin’s direction during the months of July and August, 2016.

RCAHT members also uncovered text messages between Griffin and the girl that showed Griffin was controlling, supervising and profiting from the girl’s forced-prostitution activities.

Although Griffin has only been accused of trafficking the one 17-year-old girl; RCAHT investigators believe there are possibly additional victims who have not yet been identified and have alleged that Griffin used social media in an attempt to recruit additional victims.

Griffin used Facebook under the screen name “Ceejay Forever-foreign.” An internet search revealed his Facebook account is still active. Many young girls from throughout Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties are connected to his Facebook as friends.

A jail records search conducted the day after Griffin’s arrest revealed the Desert Hot Springs resident was booked into the Riverside County Jail in Indio on suspicion of false imprisonment, pimping, procuring a person with the intention of prostitution and possession of stolen property.

Although he was initially being held without bail, his bail has since been at $500,000.

“The victim in this case has since been recovered and reunited with her family,” Sawyer said after Griffin’s arrest.

The task force has encouraged anyone who may have additional information about this case, or who may have had contact with Griffin through social media to come forward and speak with investigators.

“The Riverside County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force was formed in 2010 to address crimes involving the exploitation of victims via force, fraud, or coercion,” Sawyer explained. “These cases often involve the commercial sex trafficking of children, as well as incidents of forced labor, indentured servitude, debt bondage, or slavery.”

“The RCAHT Task Force is a multidisciplinary task force which combines the investigative resources of both local and federal law enforcement,” Sawyer wrote. “The RCAHT Task Force also provides victim services and education/outreach through partnerships with the non-profit groups Operation SafeHouse and Million Kids.”

The law enforcement component of RCAHT is currently composed of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with part-time participation of the Hemet and Riverside Police Departments.

Anyone with information about this incident or arrest is encouraged to contact Senior District Attorney Investigator Ian Anderson at (951) 955-1700, or via email. Callers can refer to incident file number R162020013 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.

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