Deshawn King, 33, and Daniel Blount, 31, both of Allentown, are charged with running a sex trafficking operation, using heroin to punish and control their victims.
King and Blount are charged with conspiring to commit sex trafficking of women by force, fraud, and coercion; two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion, and two counts of attempted sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.
The defendants threatened to kill at least two of the victims and took turns raping at least one of them, according to the indictment against them.
The sex trafficking took place in rented rooms at hotels in and around Allentown.
King and Blount were taken in to federal custody Friday.
According to the indictment, between October and April, King and Blount recruited and enticed heroin-addicted women to perform commercial sex acts at their direction by promising a continuous supply of money and heroin.
It is further alleged that the defendants used the website “backpage.com” to post sexually explicit photos of the women in advertising them for commercial sex acts.
“Johns” (men wanting to have sex with the recruited women) called the telephone number posted in the ad and met the women at various Allentown area hotels designated and paid for by the defendants.
It is further alleged that King and Blount provided heroin to the women as a means of control or withheld the heroin as a form of punishment, causing the women to suffer withdrawal; used physical force, including a Taser, and threats of force against the women to cause or attempt to cause them to continue performing commercial sex acts; and received and kept all the proceeds generated by the women engaging in commercial sex acts.
The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Zane David Memeger and Special Agent-in-Charge John P. Kelleghan with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.
“The defendants in this case preyed on vulnerable women, dehumanized them, threatened and abused them, and sold them for their own profit,” said Memeger.
“These defendants made a living through a horrific form of modern day slavery. We will not tolerate this type of criminal inhumanity and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to eradicate sex trafficking.”
“Homeland Security Investigations, working in collaboration with the Allentown Police Department and our law enforcement partners, will use all of our resources to investigate and arrest individuals engaged in sex trafficking," said Kelleghan.
"This cold, heartless enterprise, where criminals risk individuals’ lives, will not be tolerated. This case highlights the importance of law enforcement cooperation to apprehend human traffickers while working to provide assistance to the victims who were exploited.”
If convicted, both defendants face a maximum possible sentence of life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 15 years.
The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Allentown Police and the Lehigh County district attorney. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri A. Stephan.