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Wyomissing is a borough in Berks County, located in southeastern Pennsylvania, that has a population of about 11,000. Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problems in the area, generating numerous complaints to police for years. For example, in October, 2012, Berks County detectives and Wyomissing police raided a local day spa and arrested a woman on prostitution charges. Neighbors of the business had lodged numerous complaints to local police. The arrested person was charged with prostitution and related offenses, and had three prior prostitution arrests. In August, 2013, three young women were arrested and faced charges following an undercover prostitution sting in Wyomissing. In August, 2016, Wyomissing police arrested a Philadelphia woman after determining that she was using a room in a borough hotel for prostitution. Police searched the room and found a plastic bag containing two hypodermic needles and 20 packets of heroin, other drugs, and over $2,350.
Among the more serious problems associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking, and cases in Wyomissing have involved the trafficking of children, as well as child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often called “child pornography” in state criminal codes) and a wide range of other serious crimes. For example, in July, 2010, a nine month investigation culminated with the arrest warrants for four individuals. Two were apprehended in Wyomissing and were transported to the Berks County Sheriff’s Department Central Processing Unit for arraignment. From November of 2009 to July of 2010, detectives with the District Attorney’s Drug Task Force conducted an investigation after receiving complaints and about an escort service. During the investigation detectives learned sex acts were offered and performed in exchange for U.S. currency. The key suspect exploited as many as twenty women of different ethnic backgrounds to facilitate the operation. The man directed the women to address him as “GOD” and required each of them to be branded with a tattoo on the back of their necks, including God’s Star, God’s Angel, God’s Secret, God’s Blessing, God’s Jewel and God’s Property. Clients could receive victims at Reading addresses or the trafficker would deliver the women to a location for the requesting customer. During the investigation, the man twice delivered his victims to the undercover detectives waiting at motels located in the Wyomissing area. All four defendants were charged crimes including: Prostitution and Related Offenses, Corrupt Organization, Public Nuisances, Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activities, and Criminal Conspiracy. In January, 2020, charges were announced in a federal drug and sex trafficking case involving 13 members of a violent drug gang known as “The Sevens.” Between December 2017 and March 2019, members of the gang engaged in racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, attempted murder, and murder related to at least 15 victims, including two minors. Gang members allegedly kidnapped the victims and then forced them to engage in commercial sex. The hotels they used included one in Wyomissing and another in Temple. One sex trafficking and assault victim was reportedly forced to engage in a sexual encounter with a gun held to her head. Another victim was said to have been locked naked in a dog kennel and photographed, and the images then used to advertise the gang’s sex trafficking business online. In May, 2021, a Reading woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for her role in sex trafficking children in Berks County. She had pleaded guilty to her role of forcing the girls to engage in commercial sex for her own financial gain, and gave them drugs including ecstasy and cocaine to ensure they would obey. The offender forced two girls, ages 15 and 17, to meet with “sex buyers” at motels in Muhlenberg Township and Wyomissing. She also obtained a sexually explicit image of one of the girls and used it on a commercial sex trafficking website, advertising the minor for commercial sex acts in locations including hotels in Wyomissing and Reading. The offender pleaded guilty to charges of sex trafficking minors and one count each of distribution, receipt and possession of “child pornography.”
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in April, 2021, members of the Berks County Human Trafficking Task Force conducted undercover operations to combat the sex trade. Ads were placed on sex websites and the defendant responded to an ad and agreed to meet at a motel. The defendant agreed to have sex in exchange for money with an undercover officer posing as a prostituted woman. The defendant was released at the scene and charges were filed with District Court. In July, 2021, a 40 year old man was arrested on several charges resulting from another sting operation, according to the Wyomissing Borough Police Department. Authorities stated that members of the Berks County Human Trafficking Task Force placed on sex websites and the defendant responded to an ad and agreed to meet at a motel. The defendant agreed to have sex in exchange for money with an undercover officer posing as a prostituted woman, and in addition, a 15-year-old juvenile. The sex buyer was charged withStatutory Sexual Assault, Unlawful Contact with Minor, Prostitution and Related Offenses, and Criminal Use Of Communication Facility. In September, 2021, a man has been arrested for trying to sexually abuse a minor in exchange for money, according to Wyomissing police. The arrest was part of an ongoing undercover operation conducted by officials with Berks County Human Trafficking Task Force , in order to lessen local sex trade activity. The operation involved officials placing ads on sex websites, posing as a 13-year-old girl. One man responded to these ads online and agreed to meet with the 13-year-old in a hotel room. He was reported to have discussed having sex with the 13-year-old in exchange for money. When he arrived at the hotel, police apprehended him. He was charged with Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a person less than 16, Statutory sexual assault, Unlawful contact with a minor (sexual offenses), Criminal use of communication facility, and Prostitution and related offenses.
In January, 2022, Wyomissing Police officers arrested a man for prostitution and related offenses under 18 Pa. C.S. § 5902. This occurred while the Bucks County Human Trafficking Task Force was conducting an operation at a Wyomissing hotel. Officers were advised that a male was driving to the hotel after arranging to exchange money for sex acts with a detective posing as a woman in prostitution. A vehicle matching that description arrived at the agreed upon location, then quickly left the parking lot. Officers stopped the vehicle, where the driver admitted he was there to meet with a woman in prostitution. In September, 2022, three men were arrested in Berks County as part of an undercover prostitution sting that targeted “Johns” in the county. Undercover detectives operated the investigation by placing ads on websites commonly used for sexual advertisements. Three men responded to the ads, and agreed to meet and sexually abuse children between the ages of 13 and 15 at a hotel in exchange for money. When the sex buyers arrived at the hotel, they were arrested and charged with statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor, prostitution, and criminal use of a communication facility. The arrestees were identified in news reports.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://cseinstitute.org/berks-county-man-arrested-and-charged-with-buying-sex/ (2021)
- https://berks.crimewatchpa.com/wyomissing/prostitution-and-related-offenses (2021)
- https://www.mychesco.com/man-charged-with-statutory-sexual-assault-in-berks-county/ (2021)
- https://dailyvoice.com/man-agrees-to-sex-with-officer-posing-as-prostitute-in-undercover-berks-sting-police-say/ (2021)
- https://local21news.com/arrested-for-attempting-sex-with-13-year-old-in-exchange-for-money (2022)
- https://berks.crimewatchpa.com/wyomissingpd/prostitution-and-related-offenses (2022)
- https://berks.crimewatchpa.com/wyomissingpd/involuntary-deviate-sexual-intercourse-person-less-16-and-4 (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM & Other Crimes:
- “Police Breakup 25-Year-Old Prostitution Ring in Central Pa.,” Gettysburg Times, July 5 1997.
- https://6abc.com/4 charged in Berks County internet prostitution/ (2010)
- https://www.pottsmerc.com/2-arrested-2-sought-for-new-brand-of-internet-prostitution/ (2010)
- https://www.wfmz.com/sunrise-day-spa-raided-chinese-native-arrested-on-prostitution-charges (2012)
- https://www.wfmz.com/officials-three-busted-in-prostitution-sting (2013)
- https://www.fox43.com/massage-parlor-owner-charged-with-promoting-prostitution (2015)
- “Ex-School Counselor who Calls Himself ‘God’ Sentenced in Sex Trafficking,” Philadelphia Inquirer, June 19 2015.
- https://www.readingeagle.com/woman-arrested-at-wyomissing-hotel-charged-with-prostitution/ (2016)
- https://berksweekly.com/state-police-charge-three-in-berks-county-human-trafficking-ring/ (2021)
- https://local21news.com/reading-woman-sentenced-to-15-years-for-child-sex-trafficking (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/reading-pa-woman-sentenced-15-years-prison-sex-trafficking-children (2021)
- https://dailyvoice.com/police-nab-suspected-human-trafficker-in-wyomissing (2023)