Motel owner, general manager both indicted after Desert Star Motel sex trafficking bust

Posted at 3:12 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 18:12:19-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The owner of the Desert Star Motel and the general manager were both indicted on charges of use of facilities of interstate commerce in aid of a racketeering enterprise following the sex trafficking bust at the Desert Star Motel on Union Avenue.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Jatinbhai Naresh Bhakta, 29, and Roy Gene Drees, 45, both of Bakersfield have been arrested and charged.

A release from the U.S. Attorney's Office said Bhakta purchased and began operating the Desert Star Motel in 2015, where he lived as well. They said Drees also lived at the motel and was employed as a handyman and general manager.

The release stated since 2015, the Bakersfield Police Department made numerous prostitution-related arrests at the property. In May 2019, an investigation confirmed that Darnell Edwards forced two minor females to engage in prostitution at the Desert Star.

On Nov. 7, 2019, Edwards was indicted for sex trafficking of minors.

A search warrant was executed at the Desert Star last week on Jan 22. The U.S. Attorney's Office said 15 prostitutes and three pimps were encountered. Drees and Bhakta were arrested at that time.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the Bakersfield offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Bakersfield Police Department, and the Parole Division of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.