Crime

AG charges 2 men in Pa.-N.J. sex trafficking ring

AG Shapiro addresses human trafficking

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says human trafficking is a horrendous crime, and talks about recent arrest.
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Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says human trafficking is a horrendous crime, and talks about recent arrest.

An interstate sex trafficking operation was broken up with two arrests, according to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.

Kenneth Crowell, 34, and Barry “Bear” Schiff, 50, are behind bars after a grand jury recommended charges. Both men face counts of trafficking in individuals, corrupt organizations, involuntary servitude, conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver, prostitution and related offenses. The ring operated in the Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties area and in New Jersey for three years, ending in October 2017.

According to AG Josh Shapiro’s press release, the two men “coerced six victims into prostitution with the false promise of easy money and then used drugs, violence and threats to control them have been arrested for human trafficking.”

Shapiro’s office worked in cooperation with state police, along with police departments from York, Dallas and Millvale, N.J., as well as the North Star Initiative of Lancaster and the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia Anti-Human Trafficking Program.

According to Shapiro, Crowell was arrested outside Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend. Schiff is incarcerated in York County, but the AG’s office did not specify when he was arrested.

No one should be victimized by the kind of brutality and violence that happened in this case.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro

“This is a horrible case where women were lured into prostitution by the false promise of easy money,” Shapiro said. “When the victims tried to leave, these criminals used violence and threats of violence to keep them working as prostitutes against their will. Law enforcement collaboration and the use of a statewide investigating grand jury built this case. We will use every tool at our disposal to prosecute these kinds of human trafficking cases.”

This is the second time the AG’s office has brought human trafficking charges this month. That case was broken open with the help of an Uber driver who alerted police to a known victim and helped her escape.

This ring was uncovered with the help of a woman who reported to police that she was a victim.

“The Pennsylvania State Police are committed to investigating individuals and criminal organizations involved in the trafficking of humans for financial gain,” said Cpl. Gregg J. Kravitsky in a statement. “This investigation shows that by working cooperatively with law enforcement and other partners, we can bring those who commit these heinous acts to justice.”

The operation utilized advertisements on websites, meetings at hotels and women recruited from gentleman’s clubs and escort services.

According to the AG’s office, the “victim told the troopers Schiff bragged about selling opioid pills and heroin to the women working for him as a means of control. When she told Schiff she didn’t like him buying and supplying heroin in the hotel room where she worked, Schiff threatened her with a knife.”

Another victim told the grand jury that she “rarely slept” and was couriered to buy heroin in an Uber. A third victim said Schiff told her he would “chop her up into little pieces and throw her in the river” if she tried to leave.

“No one should be victimized by the kind of brutality and violence that happened in this case,” Shapiro said in a statement. “We’re focused on taking on and taking down human trafficking wherever we find it in our commonwealth.”

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