A man police say had been acting as a pimp for a 16-year-old runaway girl in Santa Barbara and other cities was flown back to Santa Barbara Thursday afternoon after being caught in Las Vegas last month.

Leonard Charles Rivers, 44, was a fugitive on the loose after Santa Barbara police in December discovered an alleged prostitution ring he and a female “business manager” had been running. Police responded to a disturbance call at the Quality Inn at 3055 State St. on Dec. 12, and came across the 16-year-old at the hotel who gave a false name, age and reason for being in Santa Barbara. After police continued to question her, she revealed she had been working as a prostitute for two people and traveled between Orange County, Ventura, Las Vegas and Santa Barbara.

She was a runaway from her home in Orange County, and after a few days of living on the streets, Rivers allegedly promised her “a better life,” according to Lt. Paul McCaffrey. That “better life” meant prostitution, police say, where clients were solicited from Internet postings and the pimp threatened to beat up the girl if she didn’t make money and cooperate with them.

The girl, who is now back with her Orange County family and undergoing counseling, had been working in Santa Barbara for two days when the hotel disturbance occurred.

Using information from the girl, police tracked down Tanya Leann Johnson, 26, driving a 1997 Cadillac with Nevada plates later that night. Johnson has been charged for pimping and pandering a minor, evading arrest amounting to a felony, and being an unlicensed driver. She remains in jail with bail set at $250,000.

Santa Barbara Police Det. Chad Hunt obtained an arrest warrant for Rivers, who was believed to be hiding in Las Vegas. He was, and the U.S. Marshalls tracked him down there and arrested him on March 12 in an area known for street prostitution. Upon his arrival in Santa Barbara, he was booked into county jail on charges of enticing a minor to commit lewd acts, pandering, and human trafficking.


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