READING, Pa. - Three people are facing charges in connection with a drug distribution and human trafficking ring in Berks County.
Hector Rivera, 50, and Dushawn Ellis, 31, both of Reading, as well as Bridget Thompson, 36, of Lancaster, are facing a long list of charges, including corrupt organizations, trafficking individuals, prostitution and more, according to a news release from Pennsylvania State Police on Monday.
A grand jury found the three operated a human trafficking ring in and around Reading, police said.
Authorities say they preyed on young women, many homeless and suffering from addiction, and lured them into prostitution.
Investigators say Thompson was responsible for posting advertisements and communicating with customers, while Rivera and Ellis used drugs to lure some of the victims into prostitution, then control them. Customers would pay the female victims, who then turned the money over to Rivera, Ellis or Thompson, authorities allege.
“The individuals charged today manipulated and abused terrified, vulnerable young women. They put their victims’ lives at risk for a profit,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro, in a statement.
The investigation started in early 2020 when a confidential source gave state police information to develop several leads and identify some victims, police said. In May 2021, state police presented its case to a state investigating grand jury.
According to documents from the grand jury indictment, the trafficking happened between August 2019 and April 2020, and the victims felt compelled to follow orders from the three out of fear of violence.
Charges against the three were filed in Reading.
Rivera and Ellis were already incarcerated in Northampton County on separate charges, and Thompson is being held in Berks County Jail.