Scranton, Pa

Human Trafficking Ring Bust in Cambria County, But No Charges for Trafficking

Posted: November 29, 2016

On Friday, October 28, 2016, Barshay Dunbar, of Johnstown, was arrested for operating a human trafficking ring in Cambria County out of a local hotel. According to the Richland Township Chief of Police, he was arrested in the company of two women, one of whom admitted to being in Mr. Dunbar’s “stable” and who was forced into the work and paid in drugs (heroin, judging by the box of 50 stamped bags of the drug that was found in Mr. Dunbar’s possession). This use of drugs as payment is a common means of exploitation and control, along with physical violence, among pimps and traffickers seeking to manipulate the women and girls in their stables.

However, while a detective from the Cambria County human trafficking task force was assigned to the case and the District Attorney of Cambria County described the victims in the case as “victims of trafficking, forced into the sex trade in exchange for drugs,” Mr. Dunbar was only charged with promoting prostitution, and not charged under Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes for trafficking in individuals or involuntary servitude. While the investigation is ongoing, and perhaps the prosecutors have a strategic interest in not utilizing the criminal statute specifically designed to prosecute those who are in the business of selling women for sex, this pattern of prosecution is common throughout Pennsylvania. While Pennsylvania’s comprehensive human trafficking law is relatively new, enacted only in 2014, prosecutions under this statute are notable, in part, for the scarcity at which they occur.

There are many commendable actions in this case. First, the managers at the Johnstown Super 8 Hotel notified the police department of suspicious activity that led to this arrest. Too often, hotel managers are complicit in the trafficking and prostitution because they are willing to turn a blind eye to the atrocities occurring in their rooms simply because those atrocities earn them a profit. That was not so in this case. As law enforcement and non-governmental organizations continue to reach out to hotels seeking to raise awareness and foster cooperation, perhaps this collaborative behavior can become the norm, rather the exception.

Second, rather than encouraging prosecution of those women and girls engaged in commercial sexual exploitation, the county prosecutors and law enforcement personnel recognized the deplorable treatment and conditions these women and girls suffer at the hands of traffickers, which is a big step in recognizing who is truly criminally liable. While these aspects of the operation are commendable, the CSE Institute hopes to see Act 105 (2014) utilized in cases involving human trafficking in the future, so that these traffickers might be prosecuted and sentenced under Pennsylvania’s criminal trafficking statute.

Category: News

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