Two Northern California men pleaded not guilty Friday to a federal grand jury indictment accusing them of sexually assaulting a runaway teen and keeping her in a metal box on their secluded marijuana farm.
Court document reveal new information about the alleged crime. Ryan Alan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Steven Pearmain, 25, face federal charges of cultivating and trafficking more than 1,000 marijuana plants as well as forcing a 15-year-old runaway from Hollywood to help them. Balletto also faces weapons charges for the vast cache of military-grade weapons and body armor he allegedly kept on the 681-acre rural property.
The two were indicted Thursday, three months after federal authorities and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department raided Balletto’s farm and home in Lakeport and Pearmain was arrested at a West Sacramento hotel.
Since their arrest, prosecutors have gathered “a recorded, Mirandized confession by Balletto, a recorded statement from the minor victim, and multiple recorded statements from others who were working at the site,” court documents show.
Among the items recovered was a bloody rag and a wood, metal and leather “rack” used for sadomasochism. A large metal box with air holes was also discovered. Inside the box investigators found a blanket, human hair and a decal that depicted an animal skull surrounding the shadow image of a human skull with the logo “Bone Collector.”
Spray-painted on the outside was the first letter of the runaway girl's name. The girl told prosecutors she was kept in the box twice for a total of three days, and the men put a hose through one of the holes to clean her and wash out the human waste inside.
They told her she was placed in the box to “teach” her and to “prove a point,” court documents show. She told authorities that Balletto called her a “trouper” for not screaming while inside the box. She said they occasionally shocked her with a cattle prod.
In late April, Lake County sheriff’s deputies, acting on a tip from Los Angeles law enforcement officials, went to Balletto’s home in Lakeport looking for the missing girl. The visit spooked the men, and Pearmain took the girl to West Sacramento, where he had her call authorities to tell them that she was OK. Police traced the call and found Pearmain and the girl. The same day, they raided Balletto’s properties.
Authorities described the marijuana farm as something out of the movie “Deliverance.”
“If I was a plant, that’s where I’d want to live,” said David Prince, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Northern California. “If I was a human, that’s not where I’d want to be.”
The property is set off a dirt road east of Clear Lake. The plot contained more than 1,200 marijuana plants, a shooting range, a stage for sadomasochistic activity and the teen girl’s dungeon.
In court documents, prosecutors portrayed Balletto as an ex-Marine who was prepared for a lengthy gun battle. He kept dozens of military-grade guns, sniper rifles and body armor there. He also had a sniper's “ghillie suit” used for camouflage and regularly took target practice on metal stands set up on his wilderness property.
Prosecutors said he supplied marijuana to dispensaries in Los Angeles and has connections in Florida, where he allegedly bought a plane for $180,000 in cash a few years ago.
Pearmain is portrayed in documents as Balletto’s drug-addicted helper. Mail and prescription bottles addressed to Pearmain found in a trailer on the land indicated he’d been living there since at least January. Statements from the girl and a worker on the farm to prosecutors indicate that employees thought Pearmain was taking money meant for food and supplies and was using it to buy heroin.
The mistrust was mutual. When a worker found the girl on the property, Pearmain discussed if that worker needed “to be dead,” according to court records. Balletto spared the employee and instead just texted them “Mum’s the word,” when it came to the kidnapped girl.
The two face up to life in prison if convicted on all counts.