PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Three people who allegedly forced a 21-year-old California woman into prostitution are facing human trafficking and other charges, and investigators are crediting an Uber driver with helping her get to safety.
“This is a horrendous case where a young woman was subjected to unconscionable treatment. The victim was lured from California, held against her will and forced into prostitution,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a statement.
Kashamba John, 29, and Arianna Somerville, 27, both of Decatur, Georgia, along with Tyler Bachtel, with trafficking in individuals, involuntary servitude, prostitution, conspiracy, corruption organizations and related offenses.
Bachtel remains a fugitive.
Investigators say the woman met Bachtel at a nightclub in Los Angeles, where he lured her in with promises of “easy money” as an escort.
The two flew to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet John, Bachtel’s “business partner,” who officials say immediately forced her to have sex with as many as 30 men per day.
Investigators allege John also took the woman’s ID and forced her to work from 8 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., keeping all of the money she made. Somerville, meanwhile, allegedly arranged the dates using the name “Amy” on the website Backpage.
Prosecutors say on Oct. 5, 2016, John took the victim to a King of Prussia motel, forcing her to meet further dates.
He then allegedly ordered an Uber car to take the victim to a Philadelphia hotel for another date – a ride investigators believe may have saved her life.
Investigators say the woman broke down and told her driver she was a victim of human trafficking and wanted to go to the police.
The Uber driver then flagged down a Pennsylvania State trooper, who took her to a nearby police barracks.
Both John and Somerville had a preliminary hearing Friday.
“Mr. John categorically denies any accusation that labels him a sex trafficker and is looking forward to his day in court where he can present his side of the story,” said John’s attorney, Lou Mincarelli.
An attorney for Somerville says she has posted a $50,000 bail and sent Eyewitness News this statement: “The evidence points to the fact that the alleged victim voluntarily went into business with the accused, but then claimed to be there against her will when a financial dispute arose between the parties.”
John is being held at the Montgomery County Jail on $1 million bail. His attorney could not be reached.
The Office of the Attorney General, Pennsylvania State Police, Upper Merion Township Police and Homeland Security Investigations partnered on the investigation.