SAN JOSE -- A man who mentored troubled youth for Santa Clara County has been indicted in federal court on sex trafficking crimes after he and a partner allegedly coerced teen runaways into working as prostitutes in San Jose, authorities said.
Justin Everett Crutchfield, 27, of San Jose, and Demontae Terell Toliver, 23, were each charged in late January with two counts of sex trafficking and two counts of sexually exploiting children, but the indictment was sealed until both defendants were arrested, which occurred earlier this month.
According to the indictment, Crutchfield and Toliver are accused of convincing two girls, ages 17 and 15, into working for them as prostitutes, and taking pictures of them engaged in sexual acts to promote the activity. The charges carry sentences of up to life in prison.
San Jose police Sgt. Kyle Oki told ABC7 that Crutchfield's experience working with youth played directly into the crimes alleged against him.
"He would use it for the fact that he knew how to talk to the young kids and how to deal with them, and pretty much present information to them that they wanted to hear," he said. "He put out that he was there to help them and he's helped kids like them in the past."
San Jose police first encountered Crutchfield in June when he was caught in an undercover prostitution sting, which led to the rescue of the two girls. Crutchfield was arrested..
Oki said the defendants met the victims in downtown San Jose after the girls ran away from a group home. Crutchfield reportedly used his experience as a peer mentor with the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department to talk them into working for him and his partner.
"So as they ran away from the group home, they put them into that vulnerable position," Oki said.
According to authorities and Crutchfield's social-media profiles, he worked as a peer mentor in a transition age youth program, which helps low-income youth experiencing mental health crises by pairing them with people who have had similar conditions or experiences. As a peer mentor Crutchfield did not have counseling credentials.
Santa Clara County officials told this newspaper Tuesday that Crutchfield worked part-time for the county from August 2010 until August 2013, two months after his first arrest.
Police say the victims were forced to work as prostitutes in high-traffic areas east of downtown such as Alum Rock Avenue and 31st Street, and were advertised on Internet escort sites. The images posted on those sites were part of the basis for the sexual exploitation charges.
Investigators believe there may be additional victims who worked for the defendants.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.