CHESTER COUNTY, PA — There may be other victims out there, warned a spokesperson for the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. She referred to the July 8 arrest of three men accused of running a sex trafficking organization in East Whiteland Township. The men were found out after a 14-year-old victim contacted her mother via Facebook.
“I want to reinforce that there is the potential for more victims out there,” said Michelle E. Bjork, Communications Director for Chester County District Attorney’s Office. “We have to make sure we remain vigilant at all times, keep our eyes open, our ears open.”
The crimes allegedly happened in three apartments on Lancaster Avenue in East Whiteland Township, said Bjork. She emphasized that sex trafficking can take place “in plain sight,” and that people in the community should pay attention. “If you suspect something, you need to say something,” she said. Bjork said she worked formerly as a child abuse prosecutor and so the case involving such a young victim “affected me deeply.”
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office has charged Dimas (“Adonys”) Omar Cornejo Hernandez, 34; Franklin (“Mono”) Rivera Mendieta, 25; and Josue Sibrian Sanchez, 33, with operating a Corrupt Organization that engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that included Trafficking in Minors, Involuntary Servitude, Criminal Conspiracy, Kidnapping, Rape, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Promoting Prostitution, and related offenses at various locations in East Whiteland Township, Chester County, between February 2020 and May 2020.
Bjork said in a July 8 press conference that the three accused men are all from El Salvador and believed to be in the United States illegally. They are schedule to appear in Chester County court for preliminary hearings on July 10.
The criminal complaint in the case alleges the accused men sexually assaulted the victim and another 18-year-0ld woman, holding them against their will under threat of violence. The apartments used were at street addresses 483, 577 and 609 Lancaster Ave. in East Whiteland Township, said Bjork.
East Whiteland Township Police Department, Chester County Detectives and Homeland Security Investigations together worked to rescue of the victims and make the arrests, said Bjork. “I give greatest respects to East Whiteland Township Police Det. Sgt. Patricia Doyle for persistently and actively working to locate this child. Without her efforts, I believe we never would have been able to rescue her.”
Bjork stated in the press conference that the mother of the 14-year-old victim hesitated to contact police herself, because of her immigration status. It was a friend of the victim who initiated contact with police after the victim sent her mother a message on Facebook. Bjork explained that one of the accused men may have provided the victim temporary use of his phone.
“We had a victim reach out in this case,” said Bjork, adding, “But there may be more victims, and more organizations out there.” She urged the public to watch for the well being of children and young people who could be victimized. “We are all in this together,” she said.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office asks anyone with information to call (610) 344-6866.
A nationally recognized organization called the Polaris Project provides information to help the public recognize trafficking that may be happening around them. Polaris Project says victims are often already especially vulnerable in some way, and can be “lured in” with false offers of employment, or by developing a relationship solely for the purpose of victimizing the person.
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