It all started back in January of 2013; I was in Modesto on an unrelated story. I was in the news van along with my photographer passing S. Ninth Street and all of a sudden, brake lights were everywhere. Cars were circling from one motel to the next. I told my photographer we had to go check it out.
We pulled into the first motel, The California Inn and women were waving us down. Most of the women had no clothes on. Naked. I couldn’t believe it. My first concern, what if the women aren’t women at all? What if they are children? What if they are being held against their will?
Armed with several cameras, we staked out three motels in Stanislaus County: California Inn, Driftwood Inn, and the Deluxe Inn.
Day one of our investigation, we saw women out in the open at all three motels. Some were half-dressed, some wearing lingerie and others completely naked.
Men would go in the motel rooms for anywhere between 10-15 minutes. We didn’t want to assume prostitution was going on, so my photographer asked three women on separate occasions what they were doing there. All of them said they were there to offer sexual services of all kinds.
Our cameras rolled for 14 days. Every day, the motels were packed with men coming in and out.
“We can go there any day of the week and for the lack of a better term these places are drive-thru services,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sergeant Anthony Bejaran.
During my research, I uncovered that The California Inn was a part of a bust before. Back in January of 2011, FOX40 was there when the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department arrested 26 men and several prostitutes. At that time, the owner said he didn’t know the illegal activity was going on.
On day 14, we went looking for the owners to see if they were aware of the criminal acts. I couldn’t find any of the owners at two locations. However, when we got to The California Inn, we were informed the owner lived on-site. I found him and this is how some of the conversation transpired:
Tia: Can I ask you a serious question? How did you get into this business?
Owner: I came into it.
Tia: Like how? Did someone hand it to you? Is the prostitution part of it?
Owner: I don’t rent to them sometimes, but I gotta run a business too.
The owner told me he’s 25-years-old and the motel was passed down to him from his family, who are in India. He never blatantly said sex was being sold at his motel in those exact words, but he never denied it.
Owner: If I see a girl here in the parking lot, I kick them out.
The owner told me he has surveillance cameras on his property, monitoring all the activity hours a day.
Tia: Do you monitor on this property what’s going on? Like a camera system?
Owner: Yes, I have a camera system.
Tia: You feel safe living here?
Owner: My nieces play here. They come over and play.
On Day 14, we saw a child outside playing, while the barely dressed women stood just feet away.
Owner: I have to run a business and do what I gotta do.
Tia: You would have no rooms filled?
Owner: I won’t say no rooms, but I would be struggling.
Tia: How do you rent your rooms?
Owner: I charge $50 a day.
Tia: That’s cheap.
Owner: The girls complain. They say they can go to Motel 6, but I put a lot of money into my rooms.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department did say they know there’s a problem here. Sheriff Adam Christianson says he plans to shut the no-tell motels down.
I asked the owner was he concerned about keeping his business open.
Tia: You don’t have any thoughts about the prostitution part?
Owner: I do, but I have to run a business.