PASO ROBLES — On April 30, Walter Thomas Jr., age 45 , of Fresno, pleaded no-contest to one count of Human Trafficking, one count of Pimping, and one count of Witness Intimidation (a serious/ strike offense), all felonies. He was sentenced to ten years, four months in state prison.
The investigation began on January 30, 2018, when the City of Paso Robles Police Department was dispatched to a local Motel 6 regarding a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. Upon arrival officers learned the male suspect - later identified as Walter Thomas, Jr. - had fled the scene. Officers contacted a female related to the call for service. Jane Doe (a pseudonym) indicated that the defendant was her boyfriend and her pimp, and that he had taken her ID and cell phone when he fled. She indicated there was a second victim. District Attorney Investigators and Victim Advocates responded to the Paso Robles Police Department after being notified by Paso Robles Detectives of the possibility that the two women were human trafficking victims.
Jane Doe revealed that she had worked under duress for Thomas for several years and had been trafficked in Fresno, Sacramento, Merced, Madera, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. In addition to taking all proceeds from her sex acts, Thomas had branded her with a “W” signifying his professed ownership of her. Jane Doe confirmed that Thomas demanded she commit sex acts for money under the threat of physical beatings. When she attempted to flee, Thomas would locate her and force her back into the cycle of prostitution by physical violence, including threats to kill her dog. The City of Atascadero Police Department located a third victim who described similar abuse at the hands of Thomas.
Thomas was charged with three counts of Human Trafficking and three counts of Pimping, all felonies. A warrant was issued for Thomas as a fugitive with bail set in the amount of one million dollars. Thomas was arrested in Grundy County, Illinois, and extradited back to San Luis Obispo County by the District Attorney Bureau of Investigation for prosecution. He was arraigned on April 16, 2018 and pleaded no-contest today.
This prosecution was a result of the joint investigation with the City of Paso Robles Police Department, City of Atascadero Police Department, and San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Christopher Peuvrelle.
District Attorney Dan Dow said, “This successful prosecution demonstrates that we will not tolerate Human Trafficking in San Luis Obispo County. I want to commend all three victims for their courage and bravery when they came forward to tell their story and local law enforcement in quickly and effectively responding to the circumstances”.
The San Luis Obispo County Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force was formed shortly after January 2015 and is comprised of various county departments, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and community based organizations. The mission statement of the Task Force is to: prevent and combat human trafficking through education; protect and assist victims with full respect for their human rights through identification; and promote cooperation among law enforcement and community organizations by allocating resources to meet these objectives. Since forming the task force, successful human trafficking prosecutions include People v. Richard Scott Brooks sentenced to 61 years in state prison; and People v. Oscar Higueros, Jr. sentenced to 167 years to life in state prison for trafficking and sex crimes against a 17 year old female victim.