California man allegedly confesses to keeping teen in box

Aug. 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM
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LAKEPORT, Calif., Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A California man allegedly confessed to keeping a 15-year-old girl locked up in a box at the marijuana farm where he had 1,000 plants, federal officials said.

Ryan Alan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Steven Pearmain, 25, face several federal drug, weapons and sexual abuse charges after the two were arrested May 1, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

Immigration officials said they had investigated the 680-acre parcel in Lakeport for several years. When they raided it, they found greenhouses filled with 6-foot marijuana plants, carefully arranged with individual irrigation systems, and a series of rusted out trailers and filthy living conditions.

In one of the structures, police found a metal box with holes drilled in it in which the alleged victim, 15, said she was forced to live in for several days when she wasn't being sexually abused or forced to help grow the plants, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Prosecutors filed an 11-page motion Wednesday to keep Balletto and Pearmain behind bars until the trial, arguing the two have "nothing to lose" and would most likely flee if let out on bail, the Times reported. They said Balletto confessed to holding the teen and growing the marijuana.

Investigators are testing Balletto's weapons to determine if any had been converted to fully automatic, which could double his mandatory minimum sentencing on some of the counts.

Balletto and Pearmain are scheduled to be back in court Friday.

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested a third man, Eric Edgar, on suspicion of sexual assault. Edgar's relationship to the case wasn't immediately clear.

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