On June 10, 2021, Allentown resident Ramell Scott Hurdle, 36, was convicted of felony human trafficking, promoting prostitution, and criminal use of a communication facility by a Lehigh County jury. The conviction arises from incidents that occurred for about six months beginning in November 2018, during which a woman was trafficked and controlled by Hurdle.
In May 2019, Hurdle was arrested after Allentown police, in coordination with an agent from the Department of Homeland Security, conducted an undercover operation and made contact with the victim through online advertisements. The officers worked with the woman in order to bring Hurdle to the south Allentown motel where she was being trafficked. The woman initially met Hurdle during a time in her life in which she was incredibly vulnerable, after leaving an abusive relationship, struggling to save money for an apartment for herself and her children, and self-medicating with opiates. A friend introduced her to Hurdle, claiming he would protect her while she went on dates with men as an escort. Soon after her first date, she was physically assaulted in her motel room and forced into selling sex. At Hurdle’s trial, the woman testified that he controlled where she was staying, restricted her access to food and drugs, burned her with cigarettes, and kept most of the money made after forcing her to have sex with multiple men a day. Hurdle’s sentencing trial is scheduled for July 16.
The CSE Institute notes that a majority of women who are trafficked are part of the world’s most vulnerable populations, often suffering from poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and abuse. Of the nearly 25,000 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking and of those, 68% were missing from social services. Nearly 50-90% of children victims of sex trafficking were involved in the child welfare system. Additionally, the CSE Institute indicates that hotels and motels are among the most common venues for facilitating and financially benefitting from sex trafficking, because they provide easy access for buyers and the ability to maintain financial secrecy. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and the Pennsylvania Crimes Code both provide means of criminally convicting and holding hotels liable for their participation in trafficking.
The CSE Institute applauds the efforts of the Allentown police, the Department of Homeland Security, and Lehigh County for investigating and prosecuting Ramell Scott Hurdle. It is essential that law enforcement officers apprehend traffickers who exploit vulnerable people for their own financial gain. The CSE Institute also commends Lehigh County’s Senior Deputy District Attorney, Robert Schopf, for prosecuting the case. Robert Schopf, recipient of the CSE Institute’s 2017 “Justice Done” Award, has prosecuted several human trafficking cases in Lehigh County and has worked with local schools to educate teachers and law enforcement about trafficking. In 2019, he was invited to attend the United Nations conference on human trafficking along with several other Lehigh County district attorney staff members. The CSE Institute also commends the victim in this case for her courage. Updates will be posted when available.