Pomona Police Department. Photo by John Schreiber.
Pomona Police Department. Photo by John Schreiber.

A man and a woman were behind bars Friday on suspicion of human trafficking after a young woman flagged down a Pomona Police officer and recounted how she had been kidnapped in Oklahoma and forced into prostitution, police said.

The 21-year-old woman flagged down the officer about 10 a.m. Thursday, according to Pomona Police. She told him she had been kidnapped from her home in Oklahoma City in October 2015, taken to Georgia by a man who forced her into prostitution, then was brought to California earlier this month and sold to 38- year-old Mark Payton, who had a female accomplice, 33-year-old Tasha McElrafth.

The victim said Payton and McElrafth held her captive and took all her identification papers and credit cards, then forced her to work as a prostitute in Pomona while staying at the Claremont Motel. The woman also said she had been under constant watch and was threatened with a knife and that Payton also had a gun, according police.

On Thursday, the woman said she managed to escape after being ordered to turn tricks on the East Holt corridor while Payton and McElrafth stayed in a motel room. She told the officer she ran to the first police car she saw. She was then taken to the Pomona police station.

The woman did not know the real names of Payton and McElrafth but she was able to direct members of Pomona’s Major Crimes Task Force, which handles human trafficking cases, back to the motel room and gave police descriptions of the couple and their vehicle, police said.

Officers spotted the target vehicle leaving another motel in Claremont and pulled it over. Inside the car were Payton and McElrafth, who were identified by the victim at the scene of the traffic stop, police said, adding that a gun and ammunition were found in the vehicle.

Payton and McElrafth were taken into custody about 2:15 p.m. Thursday and booked on suspicion of human trafficking, kidnapping, pimping, pandering and weapons violations, police said.

The suspects were being held in lieu of $100,000 bail each, according to jail records. Payton’s arraignment was scheduled for Tuesday at Pomona Superior Court. McElrafth’s arraignment date was not immediately reported.

—Staff and wire reports

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