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A 15-year-old who went missing in April and was deemed a runaway by the Los Angeles Police Department was found May 1 in Lake County, California, being kept as a sex slave and worker on a marijuana farm.
The girl was allegedly kidnapped by 30-year-old Ryan Balletto and 25-year-old Patrick Pearmain. She was forced to work on the marijuana field, and while she wasn’t working, was locked inside a 4-foot by 2-foot metal box.
According to ABC, the box had air holes punched into it, a blanket, and what appeared to be sexual bondage devices. The girl says she was locked in the box for days at a time.
Authorities had been suspicious of Balletto for 18 months and were starting to further investigate his marijuana growing business. They were working on obtaining a search warrant for his home when detectives received information that the teen was being held there.
Police went to Balletto’s home when they were given the tip on April 29, but found nothing to suggest the girl had been trapped there. The next day, police received a call from the girl telling them she was okay and that Ryan Balletto did not do anything wrong. They immediately traced the call to a west Sacramento motel, where the two men were arrested and the girl taken to protective custody.
Investigators say the minor had sexual contact with both of the men. She claims it was consensual with Pearmain, but not Balletto.
Daily Mail reports that when police searched Balletto’s home, they found 1,400 pot plants, $4,000 in cash, and 22 firearms, many of them military-grade weapons and loaded.
Both men pleaded not guilty last week to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using a minor in a drug operation, among other charges. They will appear in a federal court July 31.