Scranton, Pa

Pennsylvania State Trooper Charged with Operating Prostitution Ring in Lackawanna County Strip Club

Posted: February 24, 2021

Pennsylvania State Trooper, Robert E. Covington, Jr., 48, has been charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, promoting prostitution, gambling, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, criminal use of a communication facility, unsworn falsification to authorities, and financial interest statement violation. The charges are in connection to his alleged participation in a prostitution, gambling, and money laundering scheme in Lackawanna County. Covington is a 13-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Police and was assigned to the Bureau of Gaming Enforcement. He has been suspended without pay while charges are pending.

Covington and 3 others allegedly ran the operation out of Sinners Swing Gentleman’s Club in Mayfield Borough. State police launched an investigation in 2018 after receiving reports of “illicit activity” taking place in the club. The investigation took place over 17 months with help from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General. Investigators allege that Covington and Klem turned the club into a “corrupt organization” that promoted prostitution, gambling, and money laundering. Several employees testified in the grand jury report that patrons would pay for sexual favors from the employees of the club. The payment would then be split with the owners.

The club was co-owned by Covington and David P. Klem, 39, of Eynon. Klem faces similar charges. Club manager Michael P. Ball, 39, of Dalton, and employee Deanna E. Tallo, 32, of Troop, also face charges for their purported participation in the scheme. Ball and Tallo have been charged with corrupt organizations, criminal conspiracy, and promoting prostitution. Ball has also been charged with gambling.

It is unknown at this time whether Tallo, a female employed at the club, was one of the employees that engaged in sex acts with patrons. It is important to recognize the possibility that women charged with promoting prostitution became involved in the role of offender as a consequence of their own victimization. Such charges ignore the reality of trauma and the potential impact that trauma can have on an individual. The CSE Institute believes that those who occupy the victim-offender intersectionality space should be treated as victims by the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see police officers abuse their position in this way. The CSE Institute has frequently reported on similar situations, wherein police officers exploit the people they were meant to protect. The CSE Institute commends the Pennsylvania State Police and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General in investigating and securing charges against Covington and his co-conspirators. However, steps should be taken to ensure that police officers do not profit from commercial sexual exploitation in the future. Requiring financial disclosure of police officers could be one way to prevent similar situations. Although the State Ethics Act requires public employees and public officials to file a statement of financial interests, police officers are not considered public employees under the Act. Here, Covington was required to file financial interest statements because he was a trooper assigned to the Bureau of Gaming Enforcement. The Pennsylvania State Police Financial Disclosure Statement regulation requires personnel assigned to the Gaming Enforcement Office to file financial disclosure statements. He was charged with two financial interest statement violations arising from these forms. Requiring financial disclosure statements could be one way to hold police officers accountable for participating in illegal activities in the future.

The CSE Institute will provide updates on this case as they become available.

Category: News

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