On June 3, 2022, investigators arrested Candace Pickering, 49 and Leonard Chistakoff, 79 in Monroe County after an investigation into prostitution related activity at a Poconos hotel.
According to media reports, Pickering allegedly went to a Poconos hotel to meet with a potential sex buyer who had promised to pay $300 for sex. However, instead of meeting a sex buyer, Pickering met an undercover officer, who allegedly discovered drugs and sexual paraphernalia in Pickering’s possession. The officer charged Pickering with promoting prostitution, as well as drug possession and carrying a prohibited offensive weapon.
Chistakoff accompanied Pickering, and claimed he “came along in case anything bad happened,” and that Pickering went to the motel to meet someone to have “some fun.” Under Pennsylvania law, if Chistakoff was acting as Pickering’s “security guard,” he should be charged with promoting prostitution. Instead, the arresting officer allegedly found a handgun and marijuana in Chistakoff’s possession, and subsequently arrested and charged Chistakoff with drug possession and carrying a firearm without a license. Both Pickering and Chistakoff will appear before the Magisterial District Judge Phillip Riley on July 28, 2022.
Although the CSE Institute applauds the efforts of the Monroe County investigators for arresting Chistakoff, it is imperative that law enforcement understands that those selling sex should not be arrested in prostitution investigations and other related activity. Focusing law enforcement resources on investigating the root cause of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation – the people who buy sex- is an effective means to combat commercial sexual exploitation. Demand-driven investigations also help to shift perceptions about who is truly the culpable party in a commercial sex transaction. Therefore, if law enforcement officers are utilizing their resources with the purpose of ending commercial sexual exploitation of all individuals, it is important they remember that by targeting demand, they are also targeting the root cause of sexual exploitation.
The CSE Institute stands with survivors and advocates for the adoption of the Equality Model in the United States, as commercial sexual exploitation is most effectively stopped by putting an end to demand. The Equality Model consists of four key elements: (1) decriminalization of the prostituted person, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators with a commitment to treating buying sex as a serious crime, (3) a public education campaign about the inherent harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, robust, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model directly targets the demand for buying sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers, while decriminalizing the people who are being bought and sold for commercial sex. The decriminalization of people in prostitution recognizes those who are bought and sold for sex as exploited, not as perpetrators of a crime.
Nevertheless, the CSE Institute applauds the Monroe County law enforcement officials working to put an end to commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.
We will provide updates on this matter as it proceeds.
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 of Villanova University.