On December 7th, Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron sentenced 33-year-old Stephen J. Apostolu to 12-25 years in jail for multiple counts of child pornography, indecent assault, and child sex trafficking offenses. The sentence is to be followed by a five years’ probation. A police investigation conducted by the Altoona police department revealed that in 2017, Apostolu and girlfriend Kara Tornatore lured teenage girls into an apartment owned by Amy Brosch in Logan Hill where Apostolu would photograph and videotape victims performing sex acts. There were reportedly six victims between the ages of 17 through 19.
In July of 2020, Apostolu pled guilty to his charges of child pornography, indecent assault, and child sex trafficking offenses to avoid a jury trial that was scheduled for August. However, during the sentencing, Apostolu refused to speak in court to address the mother of one of the teenage victims. According to the Altoona Mirror the mother told Apostolu, “What you have done to my daughter, she can’t forgive you.”
Along with sentencing Apostolu to 12-25 years in jail, Judge Milliron fined Apostolu $36,000 for the 60 criminal counts to which he pled guilty. Because of these convictions, and under Megan’s Law, Apostolu must register as Tier III sexual offender for the rest of his life. Judge Milliron stated that Apostolu will be transported to a state prison as soon as possible.
Brosch, whose home Apostolu used as the location to film victims, eventually came forward to the police and told them that Apostolu had coerced her into offering her home in exchange for free methamphetamine. In February 2019, Brosch pled guilty to charges of child pornography, child sex trafficking and drug trafficking offenses. She is serving eight to 20 years in jail. Tornatore is scheduled to be sentenced soon, however due to a health-related issue, her sentencing has been delayed.
It is uncertain how Brosch and Tornatore became involved in Apostolu’s trafficking operation. A study conducted by the Arizona State University Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research analyzed over 1,400 offenders arrested for sex trafficking minors from 2010-2015 and found that 24.4% of the sex traffickers were female. It also noted that there had been a steady increase in females accused of assisting the trafficking of others, and that 55.5% of these females assumed the role of “bottom girl,” meaning these women may also be a victim of sex trafficking themselves who are forced or coerced by their trafficker to recruit victims, enforce rules, and groom victims. Finally, the study found that the females occupying this role were more likely to have a prior charge of prostitution than male sex traffickers. It is important to recognize the possibility that women charged with trafficking became involved in the role of offender as consequence of their own victimization. The CSE Institute, along with Shared Hope International, has contributed to the study of the victim-offender overlap, finding that women who identify as “the bottom-girl” believed their role to be a product of physical violence, emotional manipulation, and life-threatening abuse from their own trafficker.
The CSE Institute commends the Altoona police department for their effective measures taken in investigating Apostolu’s child sex trafficking operation and recovering victims. We also commend Judge Milliron for determining an appropriate sentence and providing much needed justice to the victims.