On October 26, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that the corporate entity that owns a Bartonsville hotel and Faizal Bhimani had been indicted by a federal grand jury on sex and drug trafficking charges following the arrest of Bhimani.
The indictment alleges that since June of 2014, the hotel and Bhimani, in his position as manager of the hotel, facilitated and profited from both drug and sex trafficking occurring on the premises. The hotel and manager are being charged with 18 U.S.C. §§ 2; 1591(a)(1), (a)(2), and (b)(1) – sex trafficking by force and coercion, 18 U.S.C. § 1594(c) – sex trafficking by force and coercion conspiracy, 21 U.S.C. § 846 – drug trafficking conspiracy, and 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(2) – managing a drug premises. The government is also seeking forfeiture of all assets including multiple parcels of real property, as well as the hotel’s liquor license.
According to the Department of Justice press release, this case was brought in conjunction with a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide heroin abuse and distribution epidemic. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office and titled the “Heroin Initiative”, the effort targets those who traffic the drug in the Middle District of Pennsylvania as a part of a national push to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who commit heroin related offenses.
The connection between sex trafficking and the drug trade has been widely chronicled, as it has become a pervasive part of many Pennsylvania communities. Drugs are often used as a means of control over trafficking victimstraffickers
The CSE Institute is heartened to see federal trafficking charges being levied against the hotel and hotel manager. Initiating these types of charges is a new way to combat commercial sexual exploitation while also punishing the corporate entities and employees profiting off of the pain of victims who are trafficked within the walls of their establishments. The CSE Institute is also encouraged by the collaborative approach used by multiple law enforcement agencies to investigate this case, implementing the expertise of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Stroud Regional Police Department, and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office Criminal Investigations Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney, Sean A. Camoni, is prosecuting the case. We will continue to provide updates on this case as more details arise.
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.