Stockton Woman Convicted of Sex Trafficking Children

Published 2:34 pm Sunday, August 22, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After a seven-day trial, a jury found Dawniel Santangelo, 43, of Stockton, guilty today of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a child, three counts of sex trafficking of a child, and one count of transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, Acting U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to evidence presented at trial, between September 2018 and May 2019, Santangelo recruited 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old girls to engage in prostitution throughout Northern California and Southern Oregon. Santangelo enticed the girls to perform sex acts for strangers by providing alcohol, drugs, and creating a party atmosphere in motels in Stockton and Salinas. She then posted online prostitution ads depicting the victims and brought sex buyers to the motels to have sex with the victims in exchange for money that she and co-defendant, Lucious James Roy, 34, of Stockton, took from the victims. Santangelo also took the 17-year-old victim to a Ripon truck stop to engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the minor victims had sex with sex buyers in the motel rooms where Santangelo harbored them and on the streets of the cities where Santangelo took them. After the victims began engaging in commercial sex acts, Santangelo urged them to continue, falsely reassuring the 17-year-old victim that the experience was not that bad and offering to give the 16-year-old victim feminine products to keep her engaging in sex acts when she was menstruating.

In early May 2019, Santangelo and co-defendant Roy, recruited a 15-year-old runaway from the Modesto area to engage in prostitution. They drove the victim from Merced to Medford, Oregon, Santangelo’s former hometown, in order to put the 15-year-old to work engaging in prostitution. Once in Oregon, Santangelo advertised the victim’s commercial sex acts on the internet and harbored her in a motel room that she rented. After a few days in Oregon, the victim called her family for help, and Oregon police subsequently found the victim in Santangelo’s motel room along with Santangelo and Roy.

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This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Stockton Police Department, the San Joaquin District Attorney’s Office, the Medford (Oregon) Police Department, and the Jackson County (Oregon) District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cameron L. Desmond and Brian A. Fogerty are prosecuting the case.

On April 12, 2021, Roy was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to 17 years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a child.

Santangelo is scheduled for sentencing by Judge Mueller on Nov. 8, 2021. Santangelo faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Her convictions on the sex trafficking of a child and transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity counts each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit Click on the “resources” tab for information about internet-safety education.