As a result of a successful reverse sting operation, five men were arrested on October 23rd by the Lancaster City Police after the men attempted to buy sex from an undercover agent. As part of the operation, an undercover officer posed as a prostituted person on the street. As a result, the five men who solicited the undercover officer to buy sex were all charged with criminal solicitation of prostitution. Francisco Candelaria, a 54-year-old Lancaster local, Carmelo Pacheco-Correa, a 30-year-old Labanon local, and Jeffrey Preston, a 66-year-old also from Lancaster were all charged with the crimes mentioned above. Felton Dro, a 19- year old Lancaster local was charged possession of heroin along with the main crime of solicitation of sex. Lastly, Marvelous Alomar-Sanchez, a 34- year- old Lancaster local was charged with the above-mentioned crime, along with an outstanding probation detainer. As of November 3rd, Pacheso-Correa has pled guilty, and as of November 1st Alomar-Sanchez’s case was transferred to the Court of Common pleas where he pled guilty.
The police reported that their investigation stemmed from residents complaining that prostitution-related crimes were happening, “near their homes and in sight of children,” and how this kind of crime “negatively impacts businesses, patrons and tourists to the downtown area.”
The CSE Institute is encouraged that police are using reserve sting operations to target the demand for this abusive industry, however the reported motivation behind the operation is concerning. While crime is not beneficial for any neighborhood, we want to remind members of the community that prostituted persons are also members of our neighborhoods and we need to look out for their safety, as well. To be clear, the commercial sex industry and human trafficking are commonly intermingled and often both involve highly marginalized and vulnerable individuals. The CSE Institute encourages anyone who suspects trafficking to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888), and the BeFree Textline number (Text HELP to 233733). We would also embolden the Lancaster City police to engage with social service partners to know how potentially prostituted people are often victims, whereas people who buy sex are the true perpetrators.
Besides charging the five sex buyers with criminal solicitation of prostitution, CSE would also suggest the District Attorney for these defendant’s cases also consider charging 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5902(e), patronizing prostitutes, which carries a misdemeanor of the third degree for firs tor second offenses, misdemeanor of the second degree for third offenses, and misdemeanor of the first degree for fourth or subsequent offense. In addition, CSE also encourages prosecutors in Lancaster to take full advantage of Pennsylvania’s human trafficking statute, Act 105 (2014), by charging sex buyers such as the five men in this case as buyers and traffickers of sex. Under ACT 105, sections 2011 (a) and (b) it is a felony to recruit, entice, solicit, harbor, transport, provide, obtain or maintain an individual if the person knows or recklessly disregards that the individual will be subject to involuntary servitude.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.