Nearly seven months after his arrest, Malik Edwards, 39, of Tobyhanna, is currently awaiting trial on charges of trafficking of individuals (18 Pa.C.S. § 3011), involuntary servitude (18 Pa.C.S. § 3012), promoting prostitution (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902), and conspiracy (18 Pa.C.S. § 903).
According to both The Pocono Record and The Morning Call, on July 12, 2017, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office conducted a prostitution sting at a hotel in Smithfield Township, which led to 10 arrests for various human trafficking charges, including those against Edwards. To conduct the sting, detectives set up surveillance teams in both the parking lot and within one of the hotel rooms.
One detective replied to an ad on backpage.com, agreeing to pay $100 for sex with a woman at the hotel. That detective traveled to a specified hotel room and met with a woman who allegedly accepted the $100 from the officer. Following this alleged exchange, police took the woman into custody. According to the abovementioned news reports, the woman told police that she was originally from Tennessee, five months pregnant, and trying to get back home. She also told officers she met Edwards and Tarkira Bell, 21, of Scranton, on an online dating site two-days prior, and that they had posted the backpage.com ad. According to The Pocono Record, the victim was not charged with a crime and was taken to the Truth Home, a nonprofit organization for services.
As a result of the sting, alleged traffickers Edwards and Bell were arrested. Originally given identical charges and joined for trial with Edwards, Bell has instead chosen to plead guilty to conspiracy to promoting prostitution (18 Pa.C.S. § 903) and is awaiting sentencing.
Detectives also arrested 7 alleged sex buyers for patronizing a prostitute (18 Pa.C.S. § 5902): Matthew Beers, Jesse Day, David Hubler, Aldo Mancilla, Menachem Moscovitz, Branden Russell, and Dragan Trajanov. These charges were later withdrawn, and all 7 defendants pled guilty to disorderly conduct (18 Pa.C.S. § 5503). Additionally, another woman was also arrested for promoting prostitution, a charge that was later dropped. On December 4, 2017, she pled guilty to disorderly conduct (18 Pa.C.S. § 5503) and was sentenced to 1 year of probation.
As the CSE Institute has previously reported, the most effective way to combat sexual exploitation and sex trafficking is through demand driven law enforcement tactics. Prostituted persons have historically been victims of sexual exploitation and often have little meaningful choice in whether to engage in selling sex. In order to adequately combat human trafficking, it is essential to punish the purchase of sex. It is also imperative to provide services to individuals who are being sold for sex, not sentences. We applaud the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the law enforcement agencies that assisted in arresting 7 alleged sex buyers and for providing services to the woman who was a victim of human-trafficking instead of pursuing charges.
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.