HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTXF) - Police have arrested two men for human trafficking after allegedly coercing six victims into prostitution.
According to police, the men lured their victims with the false promise of easy money, then used drugs, violence and threats to control them.
34-year-old Kenneth Crowell and 50-year-old Barry “Bear” Schiff allegedly coerced six women into a forced servitude as prostitutes in a human trafficking ring that operated in Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties and southern New Jersey from 2014 until October 2017.
Crowell was taken into custody by authorities outside Chicago over the holiday weekend. Schiff, currently incarcerated in York County, was arrested as well.
The men are charged with trafficking in individuals, corrupt organizations, involuntary servitude, conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver, prostitution and related offenses.
“This is a horrible case where women were lured into prostitution by the false promise of easy money,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “When the victims tried to leave, these criminals used violence and threats of violence to keep them working as prostitutes against their will. Law enforcement collaboration and the use of a statewide investigating grand jury built this case. We will use every tool at our disposal to prosecute these kinds of human trafficking cases.”
The arrests mark the second human trafficking case brought by the attorney general’s office and Pennsylvania State Police in recent weeks.
Earlier in November, two defendants were held for trial on human trafficking charges in Montgomery County in a case broken open with the help of an Uber driver who alerted police to the existence of a trafficking victim.
Police say Crowell and Schiff’s ring was uncovered when a woman reported to police that she was a victim of human trafficking during an undercover prostitution sting.
“The Pennsylvania State Police are committed to investigating individuals and criminal organizations involved in the trafficking of humans for financial gain,” said Cpl. Gregg J. Kravitsky. “This investigation shows that by working cooperatively with law enforcement and other partners, we can bring those who commit these heinous acts to justice.”
During their undercover operation, police say Schiff bragged about selling opioid pills and heroin to the women working for him as a means of control. When an alleged victim told Schiff she didn’t like him buying and supplying heroin in the hotel room where she worked, Schiff allegedly threatened her with a knife.
More than one woman has told police they joined what they believed was an escort service run by Crowell and Schiff. When one alleged victim tried to leave, Schiff allegedly told her he would “chop her up into little pieces and throw her in the river.”
Another victim testified that Crowell tried to strangle her on several occasions, causing her to lose consciousness during one confrontation. Another testified that, after refusing Schiff’s demand for sex, Schiff slammed her head into a bucket of dirty water containing shards of broken glass. The victim suffered severe cuts and scarring on her knees and legs.
“No one should be victimized by the kind of brutality and violence that happened in this case,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We’re focused on taking on and taking down human trafficking wherever we find it in our Commonwealth.”