In the culmination of an investigation going back to 2001, the San Ramon Police Department, in a joint operation with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, and the F.B.I. Safe Streets Task Force, arrested three suspects in a large scale human trafficking operation, police and prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Police arrested James Joseph Jr., 50, and his common law wife Avisa Lavassani, 34, both of Danville, alleging the couple led a sex trafficking ring for the last 14 years, which had been centered in San Ramon and Danville.
Both Joseph and Lavassani are currently in custody awaiting arraignment on Human Trafficking and Conspiracy to Commit Human Trafficking charges. A third suspect, Anthony Reynolds, 42, of Oakley, is alleged to have assisted Joseph and Lavassani in their trafficking operations and is in custody awaiting arraignment in custody.
Acting on information obtained through prior victims of James Joseph Jr. and Avisa Lavassani, the San Ramon Police Department began an investigation into the current activities of the two trafficking ring heads. Utilizing a months-long wire-tap as well as field surveillance, the San Ramon Police Department, investigators with the F.B.I. Safe Streets Task Force and District Attorney Investigators uncovered a wide-ranging human trafficking operation that stretched from California to Cleveland, to Miami, and to New York.
The operation was netting Joseph Jr. and Lavassani tens of thousands of dollars a week utilizing multiple trafficking victims at one time, according to investigators.
Chief Joe Gorton of the San Ramon Police Department said of the arrests: “This investigation has shown us that human trafficking does not stay within jurisdictional lines and it doesn’t just happen in big cities or at ports and truck stops. Human trafficking can occur anywhere and it can be hidden in plain sight.”
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson added: “We are committed to investigate and prosecute human traffickers in Contra Costa County. There is no room in our society for treating human beings as slaves and property that can be bought and sold. The San Ramon Police Department and the F.B.I. Safe Streets Task Force did an outstanding job in working this complex and highly involved case.”
The FBI Contra Costa County Safe Streets Task Force consists of police officers and investigators from the F.B.I., Antioch Police Department, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, Richmond Police Department, Contra Costa County Probation Department, California Department of Corrections, Pittsburg Police Department, and the San Ramon Police Department. Along with law enforcement officials, the District Attorney’s Office also utilized several Victim/Witness Advocates, representatives who work exclusively with victims and witnesses of violent crime, in their investigation.
As part of this investigation, a search warrant was issued and conducted in the City of Oakley on Wente Ct.
- James Joseph, of Danville, is being held on $2.5 million bail.
- Avisa Lavassani, of Danville, is being held on $4 million bail
- Anthony Reynolds, of Oakley, is being held on $1 million bail
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We told you we saw FBI guys!!
Yours was one of about three calls we got regarding investigators in raid jackets apparently executing a search warrants in various parts of the valley. While we never doubted you we were obviously unable to confirm your information with police, who proved to us they are good poker players and never let on to what was happening. Now we all know.
unbelievable. why did it take so long to stop them??
So hard to believe this could be happening in 2015
Why did it take so long?
Danica, I can only assume that until victim or victims came forward that an actual investigation came about and probably gain speed when they were able to wire tap. I doubt that it was fourteen years ago when the investigation started if that is why you are wondering why it took so long. My bet is that they were able to piece together evidence going back 14 years which should only make the DA’s case stronger. Sadly, doesn’t replace the past but hopefully the investigation will add years to their respective prison sentences.
It will be interesting to see info on what specifically they were doing. “Human Trafficking” has a rather broad scope and may not apply to the bulk of their activities. They certainly don’t seem like nice people— if you google “Avisa Lavassani,” you’ll find an old America’s Most Wanted article about her prior involvement in this sort of thing.
Good response! Thank you. It is hard to imagine this going on for so long but I take your point.
I propose we lock these three in a room with their victims for an hour or so.
I didn’t believe my eyes when you first posted this story. Hard to imagine this type of thing happening.
Yes, this happens everyday all over the world. Sad a woman with two daughters has comitted these terrible crimes. She was not a victim either, she was a ring leader. They need to stay locked up for a long time. How sad, what about their children? They never stopped to think how their crime will affect their lives and the stima they will have to carry. Sad.