Badge of Dishonor: Top Oakland Police Department Officials Looked Away as East Bay Cops Sexually Exploited and Trafficked a Teenager 

'Based on the information shared through this story, it appears that this young woman was the victim of trafficking.'

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Oakland police officer Giovanni LoVerde met Guap through Facebook, which Guap used to connect with law-enforcement agents across the region. She says they had sex when she was 18. LoVerde then introduced Guap to another Oakland police officer, Roman.

According to text messages obtained by the Express, Roman and Guap had frequent late-night conversations. Roman would send messages while on duty, and Guap would respond with naked pictures of herself.

Roman spoke to the Express and told us he knew of Guap's sexual exploitation at the hands of his fellow officers. But he denied any wrongdoing himself.

He also confirmed that LoVerde had a sexual relationship with Guap and is on leave as part of an investigation. After a brief phone conversation, Roman demanded that we speak to his attorney and hung up.

Guap said that O'Brien, Smith, Ta'ai, LoVerde, Roman, and other police officers all knew that she was a sex worker.


Guap met other cops on the streets. In February of this year, she said she was stranded in West Oakland after exiting a BART train from San Francisco. She was drunk and lost. She saw an Oakland police vehicle and asked the officers for help. A tall, heavy-set, white officer called her a cab.

"I don't remember giving him my number," Guap said. "Next thing I know, it's 2 a.m., I'm getting home in the cab, I got a text that said 'I hope you got home safe.'"

Guap said she didn't recognize the number, but the person texting her wrote: "We just met." She gave him a name: Superman.

Superman then began leaking confidential OPD information to Guap. "Stay off E14 from Fruitvale to 42 tonight," Superman wrote Guap in a text message on March 5 of this year. "There's a UC operation," referring to an undercover prostitution sting

"Thank u daddy I appreciate it [I don't] wanna go to jail lol," Guap wrote back.

Guap said that Superman never gave her his name, but his voicemail message identified the officer as "BJ." Last week, the Express called BJ's cell phone number, which is a 209 area code, and an Oakland police officer answered. "You need to speak to public information officer Johnna Watson," he said.

Watson later emailed the Express to demand that this newspaper refrain from contacting an officer "Bunton." According to OPD's most recent roster, there is an officer named Brian J. Bunton, who graduated from the 171st basic academy on April 3, 2015.

At least two other Oakland cops leaked confidential law-enforcement information to Guap. One of them was Smith.

"He frequently tipped me off to stings," she said. "He'd be like, 'Don't go out there's an undercover operation tonight." Text messages obtained by the Express confirm that Smith provided her with information. Guap said that Smith also downloaded police reports, including the arrest records of her friends, to his cell phone, and would show them to Guap.

This past Sunday, OPD announced that another officer had been placed on administrative leave as part of the investigation. The department did not disclose this officer's identity.

As of this week, two Oakland cops, Smith and Ta'ai, have resigned, and three more are on administrative leave because they are being investigated for sexual misconduct and other possible violations.

No East Bay police officer from any agency faces criminal charges yet. The Alameda County district attorney would not discuss whether it is investigating the conduct of the officers identified by the Express.

Police as Human Traffickers

According to several legal experts, any police officer who had sex with Guap before she was eighteen is guilty of human trafficking.

"Based on the information shared through this story, it appears that this young woman was the victim of trafficking," said Kate Walker Brown, an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law, a local nonprofit that works with at-risk kids. "Under federal law, after she turned 18, if there's any indication she was coerced, she would also be considered a trafficking victim."

Dr. Alexandra Lutnick, a senior research scientist with RTI International and author of the book Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: Beyond Victims and Villains, studies marginalized populations, including people who have experienced trafficking and sex work. She said that she wasn't surprised when she first read the news about Oakland officers involved in an apparent case of child sex trafficking.

"For people well versed in sex work and minors involved in the sex industry, it's common knowledge that a lot of folks have experienced exploitation and abuse by law enforcement," Lutnick said. "Throughout the United States, we frequently hear from young people how they've been physically, sexually, or verbally assaulted by at least one officer."

Lutnick said Guap's case shows how social-control agents, including cops, can abuse their power, especially in environments where sex work is highly criminalized and law-enforcement agencies emphasize cracking down on the activity.

For more than a decade, Oakland's cops have prioritized going after the city's sex industry. They have framed their enforcement efforts as an attack against human trafficking and the exploitation of children.

For example, in a recent report on sex trafficking, OPD called Oakland the "hub of the West for underage prostitution," a status underlined by the fact that 43 percent of all human-trafficking cases in California were prosecuted by the Alameda County DA in 2014. The DA's office calls Oakland the "epicenter of a trafficking triangle" between San Francisco and Contra Costa counties.

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