On January 22, 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced that thirteen members and associates of “the Sevens” from Reading, Pennsylvania were charged in a 22-count Superseding Indictment. The Sevens are reported to be an extremely violent sex trafficking gang who also allegedly participates in drug trafficking, assaults, robberies, and homicides. Charges include conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise; conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion of a minor; various violent crimes; sex trafficking; and child exploitation.
These charges are the result of a years-long investigation carried out by Homeland Security Investigations and the Reading Police Department. The Superseding Indictment paints a picture of extremely violent acts against 15 sex trafficking victims, two of whom were minors. The charges allege how victims were shot, assaulted, stabbed, murdered, and forced to have sex at gunpoint. Another victim was allegedly forced to have a sexual encounter with a gun held to her head. Further, the boarding house used to run the Sevens’ daily operations functioned to control the alleged victims through intimidation and fear. According to media reports, the doors were allegedly guarded in order to control the flow of drugs. Gang members could assault anyone “who violated a rule, disrespected a gang member or refused to obey commands.”
The media reported on the investigators’ concern for the alleged victims. Investigators claimed that “gang members ran a modern-day slavery operation… by allegedly [torturing] women and children and [selling] their services online.” U.S. Attorney William McSwain announced the charges and described the alleged crimes as “violent and dehumanizing.” The Reading Police Captain would not disclose exactly how the alleged victims ended up under the influence of the Sevens, but he did state that some were recruited through social media. If the defendants are convicted, they face life in prison. According to 6abc, twelve of the suspects have already been arrested and the authorities are negotiating the surrender of the last gang member.
The CSE Institute congratulates Homeland Security Investigations and the Reading Police Department for their efforts throughout the investigation. The work leading to these arrests is crucial to protecting trafficked individuals and eradicating sex trafficking once and for all. Further, as advocates of the Nordic Model, the CSE Institute commends law enforcement’s effort to hold the people who victimize others accountable, rather than criminalizing the victims of sex trafficking. We hope this investigation and prosecution will inspire other law enforcement agencies throughout the Commonwealth to implement the Nordic Model in their own counties.
We will provide updates about this case as they become available.