A 44-year-old Fresno man pleaded no contest Monday to human trafficking and pimping charges and received a prison sentence of 10 years and four months.
Walter Thomas Jr., 44, who was accused of forcing multiple women into prostitution across California, pleaded no contest to one count of human trafficking, one count of pimping and one count of witness intimidation. All of the offenses are felonies, and the witness intimidation count is considered a strike offense in California, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.
On Jan. 30, Paso Robles police officers were dispatched to a Motel 6 over a verbal dispute between a man and a woman. Officers arrived at the motel and found that the suspect, Thomas, had fled the scene.
Officers spoke with a woman who said Thomas was her boyfriend and her pimp and that he had taken her ID and cell phone when he fled. The woman also indicated there was a second victim. Later, Atascadero police found a third victim who said she suffered similar abuse by Thomas.
The initial victim said she had worked under duress for Thomas for several years and had been trafficked in Fresno, Sacramento, Merced, Madera, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The victim performed the sex acts under the threat of physical beatings.
Thomas took all of the proceeds from the sex acts, and he branded the woman with a “W”, signifying his ownership of her, the victim said. When the victim attempted to flee, Thomas would find her and force her back into prostitution using physical violence and threats to kill her dog.
Authorities arrested Thomas in Grundy County, Illinois and extradited him to SLO County on charges of human trafficking and pimping.
Following Thomas’s sentencing, SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow released a statement commending the victims in the case.
“This successful prosecution demonstrates that we will not tolerate human trafficking in San Luis Obispo County,” Dow wrote. “I want to commend all three victims for their courage and bravery when they came forward to tell their story and local law enforcement in quickly and effectively responding to the circumstances.”