Chester County law enforcment arrested eight individuals-three alleged sex traffickers and five alleged sex buyers- in East Whiteland Township on May 30th. The raid ensued after a 14-year-old victim, alleged to have been held against her will by traffickers Dimas Omar Corenjo Hernadez, Franklin Rivera Mendieta and Josue Sibrian Sanchez, contacted her mother through Facebook. The victim sent a message telling her mother she “didn’t want to be here anymore” and asked her mother to pick her up at the Wawa on Lancaster Avenue in Malvern.
Investigators believe the 18th Street gang, rival to MS-13, is involved in the sex trafficking ring. The Los Angeles-based gang is allegedly responsible for recruiting victims from all different states. And while this specific arrest took place in Malvern, police believe this is “not an isolated incident.” Prosecutors charged Hernandez, Mendieta and Sanchezwith trafficking of a minor, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, rape, prostituting of a minor, among other related charges. Police also charged five alleged sex buyers- Diana Ordonez, Luis Cabrera Peralta, Nestor Ruiz, Juan Humberto Ortiz and Carlos Villatoro Gallegos- who paid to have sex with minors and adult victims.
The investigation revealed horrific accounts of alleged child abuse and rape. Minor victims were held against their will and forced to have sex with multiple individuals daily. Traffickers also allegedly raped the victims and took explicit photos they later used to advertise victims for commercial sex online. The victims were purportedly threatened with bodily harm if they refused to comply with their traffickers’ orders. Victims were also allegedly forced to ingest drugs. Police believe the traffickers had been abusing the victims since February 2020.
The 14-year-old victim told police that she had been “recruited” by a 17-year-old female while at a party in Washington, DC. The 17-year-old allegedly contacted the 14-year-old through Snapchat, telling the 14-year-old that she could “make some money”. One of the codefendants, along with the 17-year-old, picked up the 14-year-old in Maryland and transported the two across state lines to Malvern, where the 14-year-old was then forced to perform sex acts for the codefendants and sex buyers. Police discovered another victim, now 18-years-old from Virginia, who had been trafficked between February and March of 2020. That victim recounts a similar story in that she met a female through Snapchat who told the victim one of the co-defendants wanted to hire her to work at a bar. The 18-year-old victim was then brought to East Whiteland Township from Virginia and forced to have sex against her will.
At this time, not much is known about the 17-year-old female who allegedly contacted these victims through Snapchat. It is important to consider that she is probably a victim of trafficking herself, forced to sell sex and also recruit additional victims against her will by the traffickers. This identity, colloquially known as “bottom-girl,” is more accurately categorized by advocates as a “victim-offender.” The CSE Institute firmly believes that those who occupy the intersection of victim-offender in a trafficking network should be treated as victims by the criminal justice system.
The CSE Institute is encouraged by Chester County law enforcement for recovering victims and holding their abusers accountable, this includes the three men charged for trafficking minors and the other five individuals for buying illicit sex from victims. We encourage law enforcement to charge those accountable with the maximum sentence provided within the Buyer Beware Act. This Act, which was signed into law in January by Governor Wolf, expands the definition of trafficking to include any individual who patronizes or advertises a victim of trafficking. The new law also expands the offense to include any individual who should have known or acted with reckless disregard to the fact the individual was victim of human trafficking. The Buyer Beware Act applies a maximum penalty for up to 20 years in prison if the victim trafficked was an adult and a penalty of up to 40 years if the victim trafficked was a minor.
The CSE Institute also encourages the continued monitoring of social media by police, parents and guardians as traffickers are increasingly looking to social media as a way to recruit on potential victims. We would also like to commend the victim on her bravery for escaping and contacting the authorities. We encourage Chester County law enforcement to locate and support other victims as they continue to investigate this sex trafficking ring. In the meantime, the mentioned arrested individuals are currently awaiting hearings while in confinement at Chester County prison. The CSE Institute will post updates about the prosecution of the arrested individuals.
If you would like to learn more about sex trafficking in Pennsylvania, please join us for a conversation on July 30th at 6:00 pm hosted by State Representatives Howard, Sappey, and Shusterman. To register for this virtual town hall, click on your representative’s name: Howard, Sappey, Shusterman.