A program created to assist human trafficking victims has led to the arrest of a human trafficking suspect, with subsequent charges being filed.
On Tuesday, May 26, 2015, Long Beach Police Vice detectives presented their case involving 23-year-old Leevi Matuni Maseuli of Long Beach to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office who filed the following charges: Human Trafficking with special allegations of use of a deadly weapon, personal infliction of great bodily injury, and benefiting a Criminal Street Gang. He was arraigned in Long Beach Superior Court later the same day. He is being held at L.A. County Men’s Jail on $225,000 bail, with his next court appearance scheduled for June 12, 2015.
On May 20, 2015, while at the Long Beach courthouse on an unrelated matter, Long Beach Police Vice detectives recognized a female from a prior human trafficking investigation. The female had traumatic injuries to her face and body, and appeared to have been the victim of an assault. The detectives immediately contacted her, transported her to a local hospital for treatment, and began an investigation. After identifying Suspect Maseuli, also known by his street names "Weezy" or “Lil Beast,” and compiling evidence against him, detectives located and arrested him on May 21, 2015, near his home. Additional evidence was collected corroborating the victim’s allegations.
Through the investigation, detectives learned that over the last two and a half months, the victim has been forced to provide sex for money, providing all of the profits to Maseuli. If she did not make $500 a day, she was severely punished. Maseuli beat her, cut her with a knife, and threatened to kill her as a means to keep her trapped in a life of human trafficking. Fortunately, a new protocol required her to come to court that day giving detectives the opportunity to assist her.
A team known as “Impact,” which includes the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office and the Long Beach Police Department, developed this new protocol. The Impact team’s strategy includes:
- Identifying potential human trafficking victims at the time of the incident or arrest
- Offering a variety of social services to potential human trafficking victims during the initial court hearing (within 3 days of the incident or arrest), where non-profit agencies are present to conduct immediate intake and needs assessment interviews
- Following-up with victims and non-profit agencies to ensure that the victims’ needs are met
- Promoting public awareness on human trafficking by partnering with school districts, faith leaders, and community groups to identify potential victims
"The Long Beach Police Department remains committed to the fight against human trafficking and ensuring that we have a safe City for all people,” stated Chief of Police Robert Luna. “Our collaboration with City Prosecutor Doug Haubert on the Impact Program is a great example of how we can maximize our resources to protect and support these victims and bring dangerous criminals to justice. Chief Luna also stated, “We will continue working in partnership with our local, state and federal counterparts, and non-profit victim advocacy groups to combat Human Trafficking in our region."
This program is funded partly through a Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (CalGRIP) grant funded by the state and is based on best practices proposed in the Department of Justice’s Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking.
“Our Police Department is doing excellent work to serve victims of human trafficking, as well as catching one of the more dangerous gang members responsible for this brutal crime,” said City Prosecutor Doug Haubert, whose office provides services to human trafficking victims in court. “There are more victims in our region and we need to do more along the lines of collaboration to reduce human trafficking locally.”
Anyone with information regarding this investigation, or anyone who is or has been a victim of human trafficking should call the Long Beach Police Vice Investigations Detail for help at (562) 570-7219.