On July 24, 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Mark Cook, 39, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges relating to sex trafficking and interstate prostitution. This is the third superseding indictment against Cook, with original charges dating back to 2016.
The Department of Justice’s press release reveals that Cook was originally indicted on conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force and coercion; attempted sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, ecstasy, and cocaine; distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine; attempted witness tampering; and wire fraud. Cook has now been indicted on additional counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and two counts of interstate prostitution.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Cook allegedly ran a multi-state prostitution business. He intimidated, assaulted, and withheld drugs from multiple victims. He then transported those victims across state lines to hotel rooms, which he rented, to engage in prostitution. Cook also posted photos of his victims online as advertisements.
This case is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, a nationwide effort to reduce and prevent violent crime. Through the coordinated efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S Attorney’s Office focuses their attention on high-crime areas and violent offenders to make neighborhoods safer for everyone.
The CSE Institute applauds the effort of the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in combating the evil and pervasive problem that is sex trafficking. 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, and the Scranton Police.
Assistant United States Attorneys Francis P. Sempa and Jenny P. Roberts will be prosecuting the case. We will continue to provide updates 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 Villanova University