A 17-year-old girl was rescued from a human trafficker after texting 9-1-1 landmarks

VENTURA, CA – A 17-year-old girl has been rescued and a man arrested after authorities believe she was trafficked into the United States from Mexico, officials in Southern California announced Thursday. The girl managed to send a text message seeking help and provided enough details about her surroundings for police to locate her.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Communication Center received the distressing text at approximately 3 a.m. on April 9. The message, written in Spanish, described various landmarks and other identifiable information. A dispatcher communicated with the girl and relayed the details to deputies at the Ojai Sheriff’s Sub-Station.

Deputies initiated a search in the Casita Springs area and found the girl within 20 minutes. Her identity has not been disclosed, but authorities confirmed she is a 17-year-old who had been trafficked into California around two months ago. She is currently in the care of Ventura County Child Family Services and will remain there until she can be reunited with her family. It is unclear if her family is in the U.S. or when the reunion will occur.

The girl identified Gerardo Cruz, a 31-year-old from Veracruz, Mexico, as the suspect. Cruz was apprehended shortly after the girl was found. He faces multiple charges, including human trafficking, forcible rape, lewd acts upon a child, luring, and sexual penetration with force. Cruz has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Cruz is being held at the Todd Road Jail on a $500,000 bail, with his next court appearance scheduled for May 22. The case highlights the ongoing issue of human trafficking and the critical role of timely communication and law enforcement coordination in rescuing victims.