Nearly three-dozen individuals have been taken into custody in the last year through the efforts of the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF), which celebrated its first anniversary last week.
Launched on National Human Trafficking Day on Jan. 11, 2022, the task force was designed as a collaboration between local, county, state and federal government law enforcement agencies in partnership with private and non-profit organizations to investigate and prosecute human trafficking crimes.
The task force was also created to identify victims of trafficking and to provide access to support services to get them help and to encourage community awareness of sex trafficking through education and outreach with groups like Zoe International, a nonprofit fighting human trafficking. Zoe International worked with task force members to train advocates who can assist trafficking victims after being rescued.
Members of the task force have started training programs with other local agencies, including Lancaster County police department detectives, the Lancaster County Children & Youth Agency and Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services. Other local groups interested in receiving training about human trafficking are also included.
“One of the initial goals in launching the task force was to educate and empower the community by offering training to schools, churches and other organizations to help spread awareness of this issue,” said District Attorney Heather Adams. “Public awareness and vigilance can go a long way.”
Arrests and Convictions
A total of 30 arrests were made by the HTTF in 2022, the District Attorney’s Office said, which included sting operations on those soliciting prostitution and minors for sexual activities. Of the 30 arrests, 19 people were charged with prostitution-related offenses, with 14 of those arrests coming on March 10 in a sting operation involving an online advertisement and a hotel in East Hempfield Township.
The task force also arrested nine suspects through three separate sting operations with a detective posing as a minor and communicating with the suspects. An online advertisement was created, and suspects called the listed number to set up sexual contact with a minor.
The suspects included men from Lancaster, Berks, Indiana and Lehigh counties and as far away as Virginia.
The nine individuals charged in the sting operations included:
- Jeffrey Fralich, 69, of the 100 block of South Walnut Street, Lititz, charged with attempted rape of a child and 12 other related felony charges;
- Michael Bascom, 54 of the 1000 block of Main Street, Slatington, charged with attempted statutory sexual assault, eight related felony charges and two misdemeanor charges;
- Bradley Buchanan, 38 of the 400 block of East Third Street, Birdsboro, charged with attempted rape of a child and six related felony charges;
- Troy Probst, 41 of the first block of Clover Avenue, Strasburg, charged with attempted statutory sexual assault and six related felony charges;
- Jose Villa Corta, 48 of the 900 block of North Prince Street, Lancaster, charged with attempted statutory sexual assault and six related felony charges;
- Tanner Iskra, 37 of the 2100 block of Harpoon Drive, Stafford, Virginia, charged with attempted statutory sexual assault and four related felony charges;
- Kyle Allen, 33 of the 1000 block of Dixon Road, Clymer, charged with attempted statutory sexual assault and six related felony charges;
- Grzegorz Marzec, 44 of the 100 block of Ridge Avenue, Ephrata, charged with unlawful contact with a minor and six related felony charges, and;
- Joseph Giannini, 40 of the first block of Nolt Avenue, Willow Street, charged with unlawful contact with a minor and six related felony charges.
Assistant District Attorneys Amy Muller and Fritz Haverstick are prosecuting the cases.
The task force also arrested and charged Louis Fountain, 33, of Brookhaven, Delaware County, with human trafficking on April 21. The DA’s Office charged Fountain after an 18-year-old woman was taken into custody for alleged prostitution in Lancaster but told investigators she had to give all her money to Fountain.
Fountain is currently being held in Lancaster County Prison unable to post $500,000 bail. A trial has not yet been scheduled.
The DA’s office also highlighted the arrest and conviction of Lititz resident Sean Deemer, 55, who was arrested by the HTTF in May and pled guilty in November to six counts in Lancaster County Court after sending and asking for lewd messages from individuals he believed to be children. Deemer was sentenced to four to eight years in prison.
Staff writer Michael Yoder is an award-winning journalist who has been honored with several Keystone Press Awards for his investigative pieces. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @yoderreports on Twitter.