On Monday, July 26, 2021, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) announced that charges have been filed against three people connected to an alleged drug distribution and human trafficking ring operation in and around Reading in Berks County. The three people connected to the operation are Hector M. Rivera, 50, of Reading, PA; Dushawn O. Ellis, 31, of Reading, PA; and Bridget M. Thompson, 36 of Lancaster PA. Rivera, Ellis, and Thompson were charged with various crimes related to corrupt organizations, trafficking individuals, prostitution, and other related offenses.
In early 2020, a confidential informant provided information that led investigators from the PSP Organized Crime Unit to develop several leads and to identify multiple victims involved in the alleged human trafficking ring. In May 2021, PSP provided the results of its investigation to Pennsylvania Senior Deputy Attorney General Heather Castellino for presentment to the 45th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.
The grand jury decided that Rivera, Ellis, and Thompson allegedly operated a corrupt organization involved in human trafficking and the commercial sex trade. Thompson is reported to be responsible for posting advertisements and communicating with “customers,” while Rivera and Ellis are alleged to have utilized drugs to lure some of their victims into the sex trade, and continued to use drugs to control their victims. Victims reportedly gave Rivera, Ellis, or Thompson the payments they received from sex buyers.
Major Jeremy Richard, director of the PSP Bureau of Criminal Investigation, made the following comment on this case “[h]uman trafficking is prevalent in our own communities within the Commonwealth. This case is a testament to the millions of men, women, and children who are trafficked worldwide, and in every city, suburb, and town in this great Commonwealth.” Further, Attorney General Josh Shapiro commented “[t]he individuals charged today manipulated and abused terrified, vulnerable young women. They put their victims’ lives at risk for a profit. We’re working with our state law enforcement partners to seek out and shut down human trafficking throughout Pennsylvania.”
The CSE Institute applauds the Pennsylvania State Police and the Office of the Attorney General for their zealous fight against the traffickers in this case. It is important to remember that sex trafficking is happening everywhere in the world, where sex traffickers often use drugs to control their victims, and rarely allow their victims to keep any of the money paid to them by sex buyers. The CSE Institute applauds the law enforcement officials working to put an end to commercial sexual exploitation and the inherent harms that commercial sexual exploitation fosters. We will provide updates as this matter proceeds through the courts.