Two men from Northern California made a 15-year-old their sex slave alongside running a weed farm stocked with a bevy of firearms. Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 24, of Lake County, Calif. were arrested on several offenses Thursday (July 25), in what police called “the largest and most sophisticated bulk of weapons seized in recent Lake County Sheriff’s Office history,”
The FBI was already investigating Balletto and Pearmain for months before they were apprehended. Police in Los Angeles altered the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to a runaway teen who may have been held in the area, changing the direction of the case. “Pot is one thing, but sexually abuse — that’s very bad,” local Jimmy Martinez said. “That’s absolutely wrong.”
A teenager from Lake County was held for days at a time in a 4’x2’x2′ toolbox, used in a large-scale marijuana operation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Air holes were drilled into the toolbox, so the 15-year-old girl could breathe, according to a news release from federal investigators.
Two men, Ryan Balletto and Patrick Pearmain, are accused of running the drug ring and holding the runaway teen against her will.
They face counts of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute more than 1,000 plants of marijuana, and using a minor in a drug operation.
Balletto and Pearmain kept the girl for weeks at a site owned by Balletto in Lake County, according to a criminal complaint. The pair used the teen to process pot plants, and they sexually abused her, investigators said.
Investigators found a total of 1,300 marijuana plants at the compound. The area is known for growing weed, according to a neighbor. “They grow pot everywhere in Lake County,” said Bob Clause. “It’s ridiculous that they get away with it, especially that much.”
The farm’s gun department was stocked with an AR-15, seven fully loaded 30-round .223 caliber magazines, lots of ammunition, a gas mask, face masks, a helmet, and a flak jacket, among other items. Additionally, sniper rifles, assault rifles, pistols, and more ammunition was found in Balletto’s home. He has been charged with possession of a firearm along with drug trafficking.
Both men made their first appearances in court Thursday. If convicted, they face life in prison.
See photos below.
Photos: Lake County Sheriff’s Dept.