Alleged ringleader in Tri-Valley sex trafficking case had sordid past

Alleged ringleader in Tri-Valley sex trafficking case had sordid past

By Dan Lawton – Contra Costa Times
DANVILLE — A Buddha statue perches near the doorway of the neatly manicured residence at 3 Tyler Court off Diablo Road. Only the small dent in the dark-green door — likely from last week’s police raid — provides a clue to what occurred inside.

The five-bedroom abode with a three-car garage and a glimmering silver Mercedes-Benz in the driveway was home to James Joseph Jr., 51, the alleged ringleader of a cross-country prostitution operation, who had long been in the cross hairs of law enforcement before he was busted Aug. 20 along with two suspected co-conspirators.

Though investigators had only been onto Joseph’s activities in the Bay Area for the past six months, the indictment charges him with crimes ranging from kidnapping to rape that go back to 2001 and occurred in three counties in Northern California.

According to public records, Joseph had past arrests for crimes ranging from credit card fraud in Missouri to drug possession in Texas. Most notably, he was arrested in 2010 on an episode of “America’s Most Wanted” on prostitution and assault charges in New York City.

In that episode, a woman named Natasha talked candidly about her horrifying experience being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery a decade earlier by Joseph.

She later watched video of Joseph being nabbed by U.S. Marshalls outside of a posh Los Angeles home and confronted by the show’s producers.

“You have brutalized these women, they are throwing around these accusations that you tortured them, raped them, forced them into prostitution,” said a member of the TV show’s crew.

“It never happened,” Joseph said.In the episode, Natasha chronicled how James, who she knows as “Spyder,” grouped the women in his operation by how much cash they brought in.

“He would have a platinum collection, which would be the best. All the platinum girls would stay in the house with him,” Natasha said.

She described James as merciless and violent, a tyrant who held her captive for about eight months and at one point took her to a deserted area and brutally beat her.

She said James would periodically have her call her parents — who were unaware she was being held captive — and tell them she was doing fine.

“I never worried because I would always hear her voice and it was always reassuring,” said Natasha’s mother, on the show.

Natasha escaped with another woman while in New York City. There, a warrant was issued for Joseph, who managed to elude authorities. He was extradited back to New York after his arrest in 2010. According to Contra Costa Deputy District Attorney Aron DeFerrari, he served approximately a year in jail before being released.

DeFerrari said authorities had been tipped off to the existence of the “tight-knit organization,” and had followed them from San Ramon to Danville.

In addition to Joseph, authorities have also indicted Avisa Lavassani, 34 and Tony Reynolds, 42.

According to DeFerrari, the traffickers were bringing in between $20,000 and $30,000 per month, and authorities seized six cars and a “significant amount” of cash when they raided the home.

DeFerrari said much of the prostitution was coordinated through the Internet, and there is no evidence that johns were brought to the house in Danville.

The home is one of six in the new development, which is shielded from view by a large beige wall. Most of the other houses are still under construction and there appears to be only one neighbor living nearby.

According to the county assessor, the house was purchased on June 25 for $1.6 million by Kumarakulasingam and Rushika Suriyakumar. Kumarakulasingam Suriyakumar is the president and CEO of ARC Document Solutions, a publicly traded company in Walnut Creek.

He declined to comment for this article through his assistant.

All three suspects are currently being held in jail on high bonds. Their next scheduled court appearance in Sept. 11.



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