Local authorities have alleged that Seth R. Mull of Lower Saucon Township used popular dating websites, including Plenty of Fish and Tinder, to prey upon victims throughout the country. The investigation against Mull has spanned from Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Chicago, San Diego, and Honolulu. Authorities suspect Mull used his “charming” personality to gain the trust of his dates, who he would later victimize by allegedly forcing them to take narcotics, or by raping or choking them. Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio told The Morning Call that, “[Mull] comes across as a very charming, very compassionate, nice guy, then once he gets them alone, he turns into the opposite.”
The Morning Call also reported that in order to keep his victims under control, Mull would allegedly threaten to kill them and their family members. Bethlehem Police Captain Anthony Leardi said investigators have ruminated that Mull also allegedly lived off some of his victims, actively persuading them to support him with money from their personal bank accounts, and by providing him with lodging and food. Mull allegedly presented his victims with “sex slave contracts” and referred to them as his property, according to District Attorney John Morganelli. It is also alleged that Mull forced his victims to engage in sex acts or take part in orgies that he would film or otherwise derive profit from.
Mull was arrested on October 18, 2017, after police were called to a Holiday Inn Express in Bethlehem following a text message an alleged victim sent to her parents signifying that she was in danger. The media’s coverage of the incident prompted several more women to contact detectives and report similar assaults, along with allegations that Mull also forced them to take part in the filming of pornographic videos and were forced into sex trafficking. Mull is already subject to rape charges in Philadelphia County, which according to The Morning Call, also transpired from Mull luring a woman to a hotel where he later assaulted her.
Bethlehem police filed additional charges against Mull in mid- December, with local authorities labeling him his as a “serial predator”. Prosecutors added charges of human trafficking and involuntary servitude, in addition to the rape allegations already mounted against Mull. As this case allegedly spans multiple states, Mull remains the subject of ongoing FBI sex-trafficking investigations across the United States. Additionally, District Attorney Morganelli has implored other possible victims of Mull to come forward and tell their stories.
The CSE Institute is pleased to see authorities in Northampton County acknowledging that the alleged actions of Mull are indeed a form of trafficking, and should be prosecuted as such. Trafficking is often portrayed with narratives about young girls being snatched off the street and chained in basements, like in the popular film, “Taken”. While there are instances of both women and girls, men and boys who have experienced such circumstances, traffickers employing more passive patterns of “boyfriend” behavior to initially lure victims into their control is also enormously common. The CSE Institute is hopeful that through the arduous investigation of local authorities and the FBI, that more victims of this allegedly large-scale trafficking scheme will receive the justice they deserve.
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.