LA teen allegedly imprisoned, abused on Lake County pot farm
SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Two men in Northern California are accused of imprisoning a 15-year-old Los Angeles girl, sexually abusing her and forcing her to work on a marijuana grow. Los Angeles police helped play a key role in the rescue of the teenager.
Authorities say Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 24, kept the girl in a metal tool box for at least three days. The box had holes drilled into it, and water was run through the box as a way to wash the girl without letting her out. The victim was sexually abused and forced to work in a marijuana growing operation on Balletto's Lake County property.
The alleged ordeal was detailed in a federal complaint, which was unsealed Monday.
The teen was a runaway from the San Fernando Valley. She was reported missing on April 2 and is believed to have met the two men while she was living on the streets in Hollywood. The break in the case came with a call from an anonymous tipster.
"We were able to, with the help of that anonymous tipster, figure out who the individual was that may have kidnapped her or enticed her up to Northern California, and we were able to locate a possible area where this person might be," said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith.
LAPD tipped off Lake County sheriff's deputies that Balletto may have kidnapped the girl, and deputies visited Balletto's home April 29 to ask about her. The next day, the girl called authorities to tell them she was OK and in Sacramento. LAPD traced the call and tracked the girl down at a West Sacramento hotel, where she was found with Pearmain and a script she allegedly read to police.
"The fact that we were able to find her in just a couple of days with just a bare thread of information just speaks volumes about our detectives, but really the person to thank is that tipster who came forward," Smith said.
Balletto was arrested after authorities raided his property May 1. Officers discovered sex toys, a rope tied into a noose and a homemade device used "presumably to attach a human and immobilize them" inside the trailer where Balletto lived, according to court papers, as well as 1,400 marijuana plants and several firearms.
Court documents show the property had been under federal investigation for 18 months.
Balletto and Pearmain have been charged with marijuana possession and using a minor in drug operations. Balletto is also charged with possession of a firearm to further a drug trafficking crime. It was not immediately clear if the men face charges related to the sexual abuse allegations.
If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement that Balletto and Pearmain have already had their first court appearance. It wasn't immediately clear if Balletto and Pearmain have attorneys.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
sexual assault, sex crimes, marijuana, marijuana growing, arrest, california news, jovana lara
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