Scranton, Pa

Tennessee Man Charged with Trafficking Two Women

Posted: August 9, 2023

On July 27, 2023, Pennsylvania State Investigators charged Shavalis S. Johnson, 27, of Memphis, with multiple counts of Trafficking in Persons, Involuntary Servitude, Kidnapping, and Prostitution. Johnson is being held in Erie County Prison on $400,000 bond.

Police responded to the Dollar General store on Perry Highway on July 25, 2023, when a woman claimed to have been fleeing from her kidnapper. Pennsylvania troopers met the woman who explained that she was able to get away from her kidnapper who was purportedly trafficking her and another woman. The victim was able to get away when Johnson and the other woman left her alone in the vehicle. The victim told police how she had met Johnson through social media, they began talking on the app and then met in person in Tennessee. From there the woman was allegedly trafficked with another woman across multiple states.

Johnson allegedly posted advertisements with pictures of the women online and set up meetings with men who responded to the ads, afterwards keeping all of the money they made. Johnson allegedly kept the women’s IDs and would take their phones or break them so that they were unable to call for help. The women also alleged that Johnson would physically abuse them if they did not do what he asked.

Over the course of the investigation police located Johnson in Summit Township and arrested him. Police have reported that the victims are receiving services at a safe location. Investigators noted that their ability to quickly collect vast amounts of evidence from electronic devices assisted in expediting the arrest and charges. The CSE Institute commends the Pennsylvania State Police and investigators on their work to hold traffickers accountable and support survivors of sexual exploitation.

The method Johnson is alleged to have used to lure the women is often known as the loverboy method or Romeo pimping. The Polaris Project, a nonprofit which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, explains that this method is used to convince vulnerable women that the trafficker has genuine romantic feelings for them and makes them to engage in commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion. In a blog post discussing the human trafficking charges against Andrew Tate, the Polaris project states “[the] intentional building of a fraudulent, coercive relationship has long been a common method of recruitment into trafficking. But social media has clearly made it easier.” For further examples and discussion on the prevalence of Romeo pimping see our student blog series on Andrew Tate here and here as well as the Polaris Project’s page on love and trafficking here.

This investigation is ongoing and the CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on this matter.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.




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