Two men, company that ran Pennsylvania hotels convicted of sex, drug trafficking
Two men from Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, and a company that operated hotels in Stroudsburg and Bartonsville were convicted by a jury in federal court in Scranton for sex and drug trafficking violations. This is part of the USA TODAY Network.
Faizal Bhimani, 43, and Nazim Hassam, 64; Om Sri Sai, Inc., a Pennsylvania company; and the Pocono Plaza Inn Hotel, formerly known as the Quality Inn in Stroudsburg, were convicted of sex and drug trafficking on Friday after a two-week trial.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania said the case marks the first time a hotel, hotel owner, or hotel general manager has been convicted of sex trafficking crimes to help others engage in this Pennsylvania activity to participate.
The case began six years ago with an FBI investigation into the "Black P Stone" gang, a group of Bloods who federal prosecutors said were implicated in gun violence and drug trafficking in Monroe County.
The Howard Johnson on Route 611 in Bartonsville.
In 2014, the alleged leader of the gang, which is based in Chicago but has ties to Poconos, New York and Augusta, Maine, allegedly sanctioned a fatal drive-by shootout in Hamilton Township and then helped find the alleged murder weapon and one of them to hide the alleged shooter according to court records.
The investigation expanded after the Stroud Area Regional Police and Monroe County District Attorney's Office uncovered widespread sex and drug trafficking in Monroe County, the US Attorney's Office said.
During the two-week trial in Scranton, prosecutors provided testimony from more than 35 witnesses, indicating that the Howard Johnson Hotel in Bartonsville was a "safe haven for criminal activity" between 2011 and 2019, the prosecutor said.
As a manager, Bhimani provided rooms for sex traffickers and drug dealers and temporarily paid for the hotel directly from the proceeds of criminal activities, the US prosecutor said.
The Pocono Plaza Inn in Stroudsburg. An owner and manager of hotels in Monroe County, including the Pocono Plaza Inn, was involved in what prosecutors call a "precedent" for federal drug and sex trafficking.
Bhimani also traded discounted and vacant rooms for sex, prosecutors said. Women have been forced into prostitution through blackmail and drug addiction, prosecutors said. Several women testified that they were forced to rely solely on pimps for food and clothing, and that they were punished for not following the rules
Dozens of women have been threatened by pimps through extortion and drug addiction, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said women who were addicted to heroin or crack were given "just enough drugs to keep working."
Several women who survived the ordeal testified that they had to obey the rules of the traffickers and were forced to rely on the traffickers completely for food, clothing, and even hygiene items, and that they were frequent for violent violations, including sexual ones Assaults, were punished.
In an example of how close Bhimani was to pimps and traffickers, prosecutors warned her when law enforcement officials were present at the hotel, including during the 2014 manhunt for Eric Frein after he shot two state troops and killed one.
"This was a novel law enforcement and the first time a hotel or its manager or owner had been charged and convicted of sex trafficking in Pennsylvania," said US attorney David J. Freed. "We hope this is a warning to any other person or company that is able to promote or benefit from forced prostitution: Don't."
Sex trafficking cases are among the most serious cases his office is haunted, according to Freed. "We will use the full resources of the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute those who associate with women and girls and those who benefit from them."
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This article originally appeared on Pocono Record: Pennsylvania Men and a Hotel Convicted of Sex and Drug Trafficking
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