On November 14, 2019, a jury convicted New Jersey natives Kenneth James Crowell, 34, and Barry C. “Bear” Schiff, 50,on multiple counts of trafficking in individuals and running an organized criminal organization. Other counts included involuntary servitude, criminal conspiracy, and promoting prostitution. The CSE Institute previously covered both men’s arrests.
According to the Pennsylvania’s Attorney General’s Office, Crowell and Schiff conducted a trafficking operation out of Lancaster County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, York County, and even southern New Jersey from 2014 to 2017. The men recruited women aged 18 to 22 into their operation by promises of easy money and drugs. Crowell advertised the women and communicated with sex buyers under the name of “Adriana’s Angels.” When the women tried to leave, the men used violence, threats of violence, and drugs to keep them compliant and working as prostituted persons against their will.
On April 4 2017, an undercover operation identified and helped to end the trafficking ring. At the time, two state troopers responded to an advertisement selling sex on the now defunct Backpage.com, a site notorious for sex trafficking. The troopers called the advertised number (which was later connected to almost 350 similar ads over a two-month period) and planned to meet with a woman at Lancaster’s Cork Factory Hotel. Once contact was made, the woman revealed to the troopers that Schiff and Crowell recruited her while she worked at a York strip club. The woman also revealed that after informing Schiff – who boasted about his use of drugs as a means to control the women he trafficked – she preferred he did not buy and sell heroin out of the hotel room from which she was forcibly sexually exploited, Schiff “threatened her with a knife.” Another victim later identified revealed that Schiff threated to “chop her up into little pieces and throw her in the river” if she failed to prostitute herself.
Ten women testified at the eight-day trial in Lancaster County. Several women testified that Schiff used alleged mob connections to threaten them. One of Schiff’s victims testified that she had offered a man she thought was a buyer sex in exchange for a ride home to New Jersey, the “buyer” revealed he was an undercover officer and assisted this woman. At trial she testified that she was currently four months clean.
Following the convictions, the court expects to sentence both men in the coming months. Notably, Trooper Brent Miller emphasized that law enforcement was “not focused on arrest[ing] the victims for prostitution…[law enforcement] focus[ed] on tracking down and arresting the traffickers.”
The CSE Institute congratulates the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and all other agencies involved in bringing about these convictions. The work undertaken by law enforcement leading to the arrests and now convictions of Crowell and Schiff is to be commended. Additionally, the CSE Institute thanks and recognizes the bravery and courage shown by the victims who testified during the original grand jury investigation and at trial. The experiences of these survivors unfortunately are not unique to the experiences of trafficking victims throughout Pennsylvania, the United States, and the world.
The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates on this case as details continue to unfold.