National City man sentenced to prison for transporting teens for prostitution

By SDCN Editor

San Diego, CA–A National City man was sentenced in federal court on Jan. 5 to 106 months in prison for transporting two teens from San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas for prostitution.

U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Bencivengo also admonished Kenneth Tenorio, 54, saying, “You just took advantage of their vulnerabilities to put money in your pocket.” She noted the maximum sentence of 120 months was appropriate, but gave Tenorio credit for the time he spent in custody in Texas on local charges before the federal proceedings.

According to court records, Tenorio’s conduct spanned multiple states and involved multiple victims, including juveniles. He exploited women and children who had been removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system as part of his overall scheme to profit from their commercial sex work.

Tenorio pleaded guilty on Aug. 8, 2023, admitting that he transported two of his victims from California to Arizona and Texas to offer them commercial sex for his financial gain. He used his Megapersonals account – a dating website frequently used to solicit prostitution – to post commercial sex advertisements featuring the two victims wearing lingerie. He expected his victims to provide him with a portion of the proceeds they earned from engaging in commercial sex acts.

According to his plea agreement, beginning in September 2020, the defendant also trafficked a 15-year-old identified as JF1. Tenorio knew JF1 was a minor and sent her text messages to recruit and entice her to engage in prostitution.

The plea agreement reflects that in October 2020, JF1 stayed with Tenorio at his residence in National City, and he used false California identification to post online commercial sex advertisements featuring the girl. He also instructed her how to engage in prostitution on “the blade” — a slang term for an area of town where prostitutes and sex workers solicit buyers – and informed her that he would provide protection for a fee. He admitted that JF1 worked “the blade” for him multiple times in October 2020, and each time, he drove her there and picked her up, collecting a portion of the illicit proceeds she earned.

“This lengthy sentence serves as an appropriate punishment for the defendant’s role in exploiting multiple victims for the sole purpose of financial gain, including preying upon a minor,” said HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz. “Now behind bars, this man cannot participate in the lowest form of humanity — placing our most vulnerable population in harm’s way.”

The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations, the Chula Vista Police Department, and the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, a regional, multi-agency effort led by the California Department of Justice dedicated to supporting survivors and holding traffickers accountable. The task force comprises numerous federal, state, and local agencies, as well as the Southwest Border High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. The investigation was also supported by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.

“Predators like Mr. Tenorio take advantage of vulnerable people and underage victims. They alternate locations, thinking law enforcement won’t catch on. But that’s not true, and the results of this case, as well as this substantial sentence, should be a warning to other criminals,” said Chula Vista Police Chief Roxana Kennedy. 

January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness and educate the public about how to identify and prevent this crime. Indicators that someone is being trafficked include frequent running away; sudden separation or isolation from friends and loved ones; changes in behavior, appearance, and attire; new friend groups; unexplained new or multiple cell phones; and secrecy with phones and social media.

Anyone who knows someone who is in trouble, held in a forced work situation, or being exploited, contact HSI at (866) 347-2423, a local police department, the sheriff, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.

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