PennLive reports that an Ingram couple were arrested for allegedly running a brothel out of the home they shared with three children on April 23, 2018. CBS Pittsburgh indicated that the woman allegedly began to sell sex three to four months ago in order to pay for her heroin addiction.
The 26-year-old woman has been charged with endangering the welfare of children, possessing instruments of crime, and prostitution. Her 27-year-old boyfriend, Lukas Trout, has been charged with endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy to promote prostitution.
Police began the investigation after neighbors allegedly complained of suspicious men entering the apartment. According to CBS Pittsburgh, an undercover officer responded to ads allegedly posted online by Trout. When the officer arrived at the home, Trout was allegedly waiting outside with an infant and two other children, and told the officer he could go upstairs. The officer then reportedly met with the woman and placed her under arrest. Police subsequently issued a warrant for Trout’s arrest.
If the facts in this case later reveal that Trout was controlling the 26-year-old woman by utilizing fraud or coercion, it may also be appropriate to pursue human trafficking charges. “Boyfriend” type fraud is a common tactic used by traffickers to lure women into prostitution. It is often characterized by a trafficker romantically pursuing the victim, pretending to be a victim’s boyfriend, in order to manipulate the victim into believing they are in love. After a while, however, the “boyfriend” trafficker will ask the victim to perform commercial sex acts for money or something else of value. This type of behavior has been recognized federallyunder United States v. Bell as a form of fraud, a necessary “means” element of a human trafficking charge. Coercive use of drugs also fulfills the same prong of the human trafficking statute. This type of coercion is characterized by a trafficker controlling or facilitating the victim’s use of drugs, and sometimes keeping a victim “dope sick” to control their behavior. This has been codified directly into Pennsylvania law. It is unclear whether either of these tactics were used in this case, or if they were investigated by law enforcement.
Finally, it is commendable that worried neighbors reported this suspicious activity to law enforcement, and that police promptly responded to their concerns. However, the CSE Institute is disappointed that there are no details of police efforts made to investigate the sex buyers or any third-party facilitators who may have been involved. Furthermore, it is worth being noted that arresting the woman in this case will likely not help her combat her drug addiction. Arrest records can also make it difficult for prostituted persons to obtain stable jobs or housing, which heightens the risk that they will feel the need to engage in commercial sex in the future as a means of survival.
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.