HARRISBURG, Pa. - Two men have been taken into custody in connection with a human trafficking ring operation in Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties and southern New Jersey.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, state police, and additional law enforcement agencies worked together to take down the ring that operated from 2014 to October 2017. Police said two men coerced six victims into prostitution with the false promise of easy money, but instead used drugs, threats and violence to control the women.
Kenneth Crowell, 34, and Barry "Bear" Schiff, 50, were charged with trafficking in individuals, corrupt organizations, involuntary servitude, conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver, prostitution, and additional related offenses.
Authorities took Crowell into custody outside Chicago over Thanksgiving weekend as well as Schiff, who is currently incarcerated in York County.
According to officials, the prostitution ring was uncovered after a woman reported to police that she was a victim of human trafficking during an undercover prostitution sting.
Two undercover Pennsylvania State Police troopers responded to a prostitution advertisement on the website, Backpage on April 4. The number they had called led them to a victim who they met with at a Lancaster hotel.
The troopers identified themselves at the meeting and the victim immediately told police she didn't feel safe, wanted to get out, and was recruited by Crowell and Schiff as an escort. She also told troopers Schiff bragged of selling opioid pills and heroin to the women working for him as a means of control. After she told Schiff she didn't like him supplying heroin in the hotel room she was working, she said he threatened her with a knife.
Two additional victims also believed they were working for an escort service, not a prostitution ring. One of those victims said she began working for money to "fuel her addiction."
Other victims testified that Schiff and Crowell used abuse, prescription opioids and heroin to control them.
"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. "This investigation shows that by working cooperatively with law enforcement and other partners, we can bring those who commit these heinous acts to justice."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill guaranteeing state-level funding for a popular children's health insurance program, and urges Congress to renew federal funding.Read More »
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