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February 22, 2018
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Prostitution ring uncovered

  • David Romesburg Photos courtesy of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety.

  • Fay Romesburg Photos courtesy of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety.

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
February 2, 2018

Two Santa Rosa residents were arrested last Friday after an undercover investigation by the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, the Petaluma Police Department and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office discovered the mother and son duo were operating a prostitution ring in a Rohnert Park apartment complex on Snyder Lane.

Prior to the arrest, internet ads depicting nude massage services were discovered by the team of investigators and the phone number for the ads was associated with one of the suspects, Fay Romesburg, 59. The services were offered at the homes of the women in the ads, an Alverado Avenue home in Santa Rosa, an apartment on the 400 block of Snyder Lane in RP and at a business called “Black Cat Industries,” all of which were being operated by Fay and her 37-year-old son, David Romesburg. The “Black Cat” business was listed as a gaming and karaoke studio that was in the works of being opened by the pair.

 Based on the investigation, search warrants were obtained for the properties and a Rohnert Park undercover officer set up an appointment with a women listed in the advertisement for nude massages with special “upgrades” available. The officer was then directed to an apartment rented by one of the prostitution ring operators, David Romesburg.

 According to a Rohnert Park Public Safety report on Nixle, the undercover officer then went to the directed apartment, “Where he met with the 19-year-old woman depicted in the ad. Upon entering the apartment, the women offered the undercover officer a sex act in exchange for a specified amount of money. Officers waiting outside then went to the apartment where the woman was detained as part of the investigation and other officers served the search warrants at the home on Alverado Street and at the business on Southwest Boulevard in RP.” The business itself seemed to still be under construction according to reports, but it was clear that private rooms were being set up in the building.

 During the sting, officers talked with some of the women involved who spoke of a sinister environment of human trafficking where the suspects would not allow women to leave the business or allow them money for basic needs items unless they paid a portion of the proceeds to the mother or paid of debt, or conducted sexual acts with Fay’s son.

 “Detectives were also told that David and Fay Romesburg had recruited them for the prostitution business,” the report stated.

 The two were arrested on charges of pimping and pandering and David was also arrested for human trafficking and booked into the Sonoma County Jail where he is being held on $250,000 bail. His mother is being held on $245,000 bail. While the mother does not have any past felonies in Sonoma County – apart from two civil cases for claims of money damages and a criminal infraction for failing to license her dog, the son David has quite a startling criminal background.

 

According to a Sonoma County Superior Court records search, David has a history of sexual related felonies and was charged in 2004 with 10 counts of engaging unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 3-years-old and one count of oral copulation with a person under the age of 16. In 2001 he was charged with similar crimes and charged with two counts of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16, oral copulation, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor under 16 and two counts of oral copulation with a minor under 16.

 This is also Rohnert Park’s second discovery of a prostitution operation within six months. Back in August of 2017 The Voice reported on the discovery brothel at another RP apartment complex that was found to be part of a statewide Asian sex trafficking operating following an undercover investigation.

 In the article on the August incident, RP Department of Public Safety Sgt. Jeff Justice

told The Voice that while brothels in RP are uncommon, unfortunately sex trafficking can happen anywhere.

 “Brothels are uncommon, it’s not very often we come across something like that, but there’s sex trafficking everywhere,” Justice said in the article.

 According to data compiled by the California Human Trafficking task force, 72 percent of American citizens make up the human trafficking victim population and from 2010 to 2012 California’s nine human trafficking task force identified 1,277 victims, according to the Center for Public Policy Studies.

 Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch could not comment on the case as it is still under investigation. However Chief Deputy of the D.A.’S office, Brian Staebell was able to comment on the history of human trafficking cases in Sonoma County.

 According to Staebell last year in Sonoma County there were approximately 6-7 prosecuted human trafficking cases. And while the court does see a lot of cases from other parts of the state, he said it can be difficult.

 “(The sentencing) requires that the defendant took away the civil liberties of the victim through force or coercion. It’s a difficult crime to detect and prosecute. The traffickers tend to be very manipulative and try to make the victims believe that they’re helping them, so it is also hard to get accurate information,” Staebell said.

 If sentenced for human trafficking the suspects can get anywhere up to 20 years in state prison for the pandering and pimping of adults according to Staebell.