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California woman charged with trafficking youth on Las Vegas Strip

Updated September 10, 2020 - 7:37 pm

A law enforcement task force that targets child sex trafficking has charged a California woman with trafficking a youth on the Las Vegas Strip after a man said he was pistol-whipped in his hotel room, police and court records show.

Kristian Taufa, 34, of Highland was arrested Sept. 1 at the MGM Grand as police investigated an armed robbery with ties to a youth engaged in prostitution, an arrest report for Taufa states.

The report says a man told police he was walking through the casino on the morning of Sept. 1 when he was approached by Taufa and a young woman. The young woman propositioned the man for sex in exchange for money, but he told the pair he doesn’t pay for sex. He continued to talk to the women. Eventually, the man and the young woman went to his room, where again he was propositioned for sex in exchange for money. The man again said he doesn’t pay for sex, but the young woman started engaging in sex with the man anyway.

He said a short time later the young woman started “acting strange” and he suspected he was being “set up,” according to the report. Within minutes, Taufa and a man identified in police records as Joseph Rowe, 51, barged into his room. The victim said he was pistol-whipped by Rowe, who demanded money from him at gunpoint. MGM Grand security then arrived and took everyone into custody. Las Vegas police officers asked the Las Vegas Child Exploitation Task Force to take over the investigation.

A task force detective said the young woman was identified as a juvenile. She initially claimed she was sexually assaulted but later acknowledged she was working in prostitution. She said she was brought to California by Taufa and Rowe on Aug. 30. She claimed they did not force her to engage in prostitution.

Police looked at the cellphone records of the teen, and in text conversations the teen messaged Taufa just before the robbery saying the victim “don’t wanna pay up.”

Taufa and Rowe declined to speak with investigators. Taufa is charged with sex trafficking of a child under 18, child abuse or neglect, conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary while in possession of firearm, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. Rowe is charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, attempted robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 22.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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