On September 13, 2023, the Chambersburg Police Department charged Pennsylvania State Constable Timothy Heefner, 64, of Chambersburg, PA with over 600 charges related to human trafficking. Heefner was initially elected to serve as State Constable in 2015 and was re-elected for the position in 2021. Heefner was charged with multiple counts of Trafficking in Individuals, Involuntary Servitude, Criminal Use of Communication Facility, Sexual Extortion, and Patronizing Prostitutes, among several others. Heefner is currently being held in Franklin County Jail on a $1,250,000 bail.
These charges follow a two-year long investigation that began in July 2021. The investigation was a joint effort between the Chambersburg Police Department and the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, and was initiated by a report filed by the Franklin County Children and Youth Services. The report alleged Heefner sexually assaulted underage girls and had numerous inappropriate interactions with women during his time as constable. Over the two-year span of the investigation, police reviewed social media, phone records, testimony, and phone calls between Heefner and women in the Franklin County Jail.
The investigation revealed that during his time as state constable, Heefner used the female inmates’ substance use disorder to manipulate and coerce them into commercial sex acts, and he allegedly messaged over twenty women on Facebook Messenger to solicit sex. The investigation also uncovered that Heefner allegedly began trafficking a woman when she was a child, in addition to offering her what he deemed a “finders fee” for recruiting other women for him. When police searched Heefner’s home, they report finding toothbrushes with females’ initials or names on them, a blanket with pictures of women, multiple “Sugar Daddy” VISA pre-paid cards, one “Sugar Babies” VISA pre-paid card, PA constable documentation, over 100 letters from female inmates, and a t-shirt that read “Get higher than the Ho’s in Chambersburg.”
A grand jury convened in early 2023 to begin reviewing evidence. Police officers and eleven of the women trafficked by Heefner testified before the Franklin County Investigative Grand Jury. In a thirty-three page document presenting its findings, the grand jury concluded that Heefner used his position of power as constable to threaten women if they did not cooperate, solicit underage girls, and target vulnerable women to exploit. The findings explicitly stated:
“We find that Timonthy Heefner is a predator and has gotten away with sexually victimizing young women in our county for far too long. He believed he was permitted to commit these crimes and that could get away with it all because his victims were broken, sick, addicted and in the shadows . . . Heefner believed no one would care and no would believe these young women, and he was wrong. We believe them . . . Timonthy Heefner must be stopped and he must be held accountable.”
Traffickers often hold a trusted position of power, and this case is yet another example of an individual using their position to exploit others. In Pennsylvania, a constable is considered a law enforcement officer and has the authority to make arrests, with or without a warrant, for felonies and breaches of the peace. Heefner used his position as state constable to allegedly intimidate and coerce the women he trafficked with the underlying threat of arrest. Notably, several women provided testimony accusing Heefner of using his position as constable to threaten them if they did not cooperate. At the CSE Institute, we have observed lawyers, doctors, teachers, bosses, and landlords alike who have used their power, wealth, and status to manipulate, sexually assault, rape, and exploit others. To eradicate commercial sexual exploitation, it is imperative to proactively identify predatory offenders.
Most importantly, the CSE Institute applauds the bravery of the survivors. It was the voices of survivors that communicated their stories to provide crucial evidence and testimony to help hold Heefner accountable for the crimes committed while serving in a position of power. Abuse within systems structured on power imbalances is a reality in trafficking cases, and the CSE Institute applauds the survivors and law enforcement officials in this case for acting as a force of change in the effort to dismantle a system where power, wealth, and status is used to manipulate, intimidate, coerce, sexually assault, or exploit others.
The investigation and Heefner’s criminal proceedings are still ongoing. The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates as these matters develop.
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 Villanova University.