According to federal prosecutors two pot growers in Clear Lake, California kept a 15-year-old kidnap victim locked in a metal toolbox, raped her, and forced her to work on their farm.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco earlier this month says the two men, 30-year-old Ryan Balletto and 24-year-old Patrick Pearmain, put the girl in a 4-foot-long by 2-foot-wide by 2-foot-tall metal toolbox drilled with air holes for a total of three days. According to KCRA, the men kept the girl captive for weeks at the site. The complaint also says the men marked the box with the girl's first initial "to prove a point" and repeatedly assaulted the victim. The girl tells authorities that the men would insert a hose into the box to spray her down and that Balletto called her a "trooper" because she didn't scream for help.
Earlier this year, federal investigators had been preparing for months to raid Balletto's farm near Clearlake. On April 29th, Los Angeles Police contacted the sheriff's department in Lake County, believing the missing Southern California teen was being held captive on the property. Police found her with Pearmain at a West Sacramento hotel the next day, after she made cellphone call to authorities to say she was OK and "with someone named Ryan."
On May 1st, federal agents raided the property and found 1,300 marijuana plants as well as a "sophisticated" arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, tactical vests, night-vision goggles and body armor.
In addition to the drugs and weapons, a Homeland Security agent said Balletto's trailer was stocked with BDSM sex equipment including a homemade "rack" designed to hold a person immobile. Prosecutors also noted evidence that the two men may have kidnapped and/or assaulted other victims, although this is currently unverified.
U.S. Attorney in San Francisco Melinda Haag, criticized for cracking down on medical marijuana dispensaries in Northern California, explained to the press: "Unfortunately, this case illustrates what we in law enforcement see - marijuana grow operations that include heavily armed, violent individuals, motivated by profit, carrying out abuses of vulnerable victims."
The teen victim is now safe, but authorities urge any other victims to come forward and alert the Department of Homeland Security's Special Agent Andrew Jensen at 415-844-5312. Balletto and Pearmain are being held without bail. The two face federal charges of conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 marijuana plants, using a minor in drug operations, and possession of a firearm for drug trafficking as well as state charges of rape and kidnapping. They could face life in prison if convicted.