The man arrested in Mountain View on suspicion of human trafficking last month allegedly used threats of violence in order to extract money and force sex acts from Guatemalan immigrants he helped bring to the country illegally, according to a monthslong investigation by the Mountain View Police Department.
Carlos Garza, 33, was arrested on Dec. 20 on suspicion of human trafficking and has since been charged with four counts of human trafficking, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. One of those charges accuses Garza of forcing a minor to engage in a "commercial sex act" and carries a sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
Evelia De Maria Galvez
But once they arrived, the victims described oppressive and fearful living conditions under Garza, with strict rules requiring they stay with him in a crowded two-bedroom apartment until the debts were repaid. Police accounts of the apartment on the 1900 block of Latham Street detail multiple beds in the living room, and people in the apartment describing to officers how several people shared a twin-size bed. Victims interviewed by police recalled that there were anywhere from "at least 10" to as many as 17 people living in the apartment.
Police believe that the 14-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted seven times between April and June last year, and that Garza had "brought men into the home and into the victim's room" five times, demanding that she have sex with them and telling her that she had no choice. Garza reportedly received $200 from each man, which did not go toward the girl and her father's debt. The victim told investigators that she was also sexually assaulted by Garza twice during the same time period, and that he threatened to kill her and her family if she refused him.
During this time, the teen and her father, who had a job despite being restricted from working by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, gave Garza $800 a month for rent.
Garza's threats seemed legitimate because the girl believed Garza had fled to Mountain View from Guatemala after murdering someone, according to police interviews, and said she was fearful he would harm her mother and sisters who were still in Guatemala. Garza's sister, Evelia De Maria Galvez, also allegedly dissuaded her from going to police, telling her that there would be "consequences" if she made a declaration against Garza. Galvez is suspected of knowing about the sexual assaults, and was arrested by police on Dec. 20 on suspicion of aiding Garza and intimidating a victim.
When the sexual assaults were taking place, the girl told police she was not attending school and would seldom leave her bedroom. When she began attending summer school in Mountain View in June, the sexual assaults ceased because she spent less time at home and more time with friends and on campus, police said.
Police were alerted to the potential human trafficking case in early October, following reports that a man in the Latham Street apartment, later identified as Garza, had threatened a mother and her 7-year-old son with what appeared to be a pistol. The mother told police on Oct. 1 that, the day prior, Garza was intoxicated and pointed what was later determined to be a BB gun at her and her child, yelling, "There's going to be a killing," police stated in the report.
The victim told police that she did not feel safe returning to the apartment, and that four days prior he had fired the gun out the window. Four officers located Garza at a party at Rengstorff Park on Oct. 1 and arrested him. A Daisy Powerline 5501 BB gun was found under a pillow in the apartment during a search the next day, along with carbon dioxide canisters, ammo for the BB gun and what appeared to be a fake Mexican Consulate card with Garza's photo on it. Garza's passport indicates he is from Guatemala, the report said.
Garza was charged with two counts of exhibiting an imitation firearm and threatening to commit a crime resulting in death or great bodily injury. He posted bail, but two days later was found to be in violation of an emergency protective order granted to the mother, which stated he could not come within 300 feet of her or the apartment. "Garza bailed out within 24 hours after being arrested for the second time," police said in the report.
That same day, officers suspicious of possible human trafficking began connecting the dots between the 14-year-old suspected of being sexually assaulted -- then enrolled as a high school student -- and the reported gun threats by Garza in the Latham Street apartment. While police reports filed in October state that speculation about human trafficking was unfounded at the moment, the case was referred to Mountain View police investigators, whose work eventually led to the Dec. 20 arrests of Garza and Galvez.
Garza is due back in court on Feb. 6 in San Jose and remains in custody with a bail set at $200,000.