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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

2 men charged in sex trafficking scheme

PHILADELPHIA — Two Pennsylvania men were arrested Friday for running a sex trafficking operation, incorporating heroin as a means of punishing and controlling their victims. The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from the Allentown Police Department and Office of the Lehigh County District Attorney.

According to court documents, between October 2012 and April 2013, Deshawn King, 33, and Daniel Blount, 31, both of Allentown, recruited and enticed heroin-addicted women to perform commercial sex acts at their direction by promising a continuous supply of money and heroin. The defendants allegedly used the website backpage.com to post sexually explicit photos of the women, advertising them for commercial sex acts. "Johns" (men who wanted to have sex with the recruited women) called the telephone number posted in the ad and met the women at hotels designated and paid for by the defendants. King and Blount allegedly 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. They also used physical force, including the use of a Taser, and threats of force to force the women to continue performing commercial sex acts. The defendants received and kept all the proceeds generated by the women who engaged in commercial sex acts. The defendants also threatened to kill at least two of the victims and took turns raping at least one of the victims.

"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. This cold, heartless enterprise, where criminals risk individuals' lives, will not be tolerated," said John Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "This case highlights the importance of law enforcement cooperation to apprehend human traffickers while working to provide assistance to the victims who were exploited."

"The defendants in this case preyed on vulnerable women, dehumanized them, threatened and abused them, and sold them for their own profit," said U.S. Attorney Zane David 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."

If convicted, both defendants face a possible sentence of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.