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SoCal underground party ends with 158 arrests, sex trafficking victim recovered

LOS ANGELES — More than 150 people were arrested and at least one minor suspected of being sexually trafficked was recovered during an underground party Saturday that authorities have since deemed a “superspreader event.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed the arrests and rescue during a Tuesday news conference, noting six weapons were recovered and 38 of the revelers taken into custody were juveniles, KABC reported.

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The party, held in a vacant Palmdale residence, violated multiple laws and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-home order but would have been targeted by law enforcement regardless of novel coronavirus restrictions because it highlighted a dangerous underground network of nationwide parties that predate the pandemic, Villanueva told the TV station.

According to the Los Angeles Times, law enforcement became aware of the party hours in advance but opted not to halt the gathering despite the COVID-19 risk.

Villanueva said during the news conference that allowing the party to proceed permitted the department to rescue the girl and discourage future gatherings with the high-profile arrests.

A department spokesman told the Times, however, that sheriff’s officials were unaware of the girl’s presence at the party until they discovered her by chance.

According to the Times, five people accused of organizing the party were arrested on suspicion of burglary, one 17-year-old is facing a weapons charge and the majority of the remaining arrests were for suspicion of trespassing and failing to follow a quarantine health order during a pandemic.

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