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Sugarloaf Township is a township of approximately 4,000 residents in central Pennsylvania, located in Luzerne County, PA. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been well-documented in the township and in other areas of the county. This activity and its ancillary crimes has resulted in reports to local law enforcement by residents and businesses. Police have reported that drugs, robbery, and violence common occur during commercial sex transactions. For example, in 2010, Sugarloaf Township police arrested a woman suspected of engaging in prostitution with a man in exchange for $200 who allegedly was carrying several hypodermic needles, empty bags containing heroin, a plastic bag with white powder on it, and a straw with powder residue. Officers also recovered a needle and a spoon with burnt heroin on it.
In effort to combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, police have been known to conduct reverse sting operations. For example, in November 2016, the Sugarloaf Township Police Department with assistance from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Hazleton Police, Butler Township Police and Weatherly Police conducted a prostitution sting operation in Sugarloaf Township that resulted in the arrest of 17 male sex buyers and prostituted women. The investigation began several months ago when Sugarloaf Township police noticed a significant rise in information involving “escorts” and prostitution-related activity in the area. According to the Sugarloaf Police Chief Josh Winters, a lot of the information collected by officers during interviews came from people arrested for other crimes. In response to an increase in commercial sex activity, Sugarloaf Township police reached out to the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office to assist with the operation. The operation ran for a period of eight to ten hours.
Additionally, officers discovered that sex buyers were offering cash and/or drugs in exchange for sex. These transactions would take place at area hotels or motels, cars, and parking lots. Chief Winters stated that intelligence information found that sex trafficking/pimping, as well as sexual and physical abuse were occurring, and that two women facing charges were victims of sex trafficking. Chief Winters further expressed that this investigation pinpointed not only the prostituted women, but the sex buyers as well, because the demand for commercial sex drives the sex trade. The women who were arrested were offered counseling and rehabilitation by the Truth Home in Bethlehem when they were taken into custody. The identities and hometowns of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets. Four other individuals faced charges but their names were omitted from news reports due to further investigations.
Amongst the arrested sex buyers was a 27-year-old Hamburg Area High School guidance counselor. As a result of his arrest, the counselor resigned from his position at the high school on November 30, 2016. That same day, the Hamburg Area School District Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf, told The Hamburg Area Item that he was made aware of the counselor’s prostitution-related charges and had accepted his resignation,
“I’m aware of the newspaper article and became aware of the situation and working through the process. It came to a conclusion today with his resignation.”
Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.poconorecord.com/17-arrested-on-prostitution-related-charges (2016)
- https://cseinstitute.org/17-arrested-luzerne-county-prostitution-related-charges/ (2016)
- https://www.readingeagle.com/hamburg-counselor-resigns-among-17-apprehended-prostitution-sting (2016)
- STPD Facebook Press Release: Prostitution Sting Operation (2016)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- “The Scandal of Human Trafficking Rocked Back Mountain in 1926”, The Citizen’s Voice, June 10 2009.
- Prostitution charges brought against Berwick woman (2010)
- “W-B Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking”, Wilkes Barre Citizens’ Voice, June 27 2014.
- “Federal Grand Jury Indicts Two Scranton Men on Child Sex Trafficking Charges,” Scranton Times-Tribune, May 12 2015.
- https://www.justice.gov/woman-sentenced-prison-transporting-person-interstate-commerce-engage (2014)
- https://www.timesleader.com/police-arrest-three-women-in-prostitution-sweep (2015)
- https://wnep.com/workers-at-spa-in-luzerne-county-busted-for-prostitution/ (2016)
- http://www.wfmz.com/prostitution-sting-nets-two-luzerne-county-women-in-stroudsburg/ (2016)
- https://www.pennlive.com/01/pa_spa_was_really_a_brothel_co (2017)
- https://www.thetimes-tribune.com/women-admit-running-prostitution-business-massage-parlor (2017)
- https://www.hazletonnewsone.com/prostitution-charges-filed-for-hazle-township-woman (2018)
- https://cseinstitute.org/Report on Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Pennsylvania (2018)