MALVERN, Pa. (CBS) — A 14-year-old’s Facebook message, “I don’t want to be here anymore,” helped investigators dismantle a human trafficking ring in Malvern, and ended in the arrests of eight men — the three alleged ringleaders and five men who paid to have sex with the victims.
Authorities charged 34-year-old Dimas Omar Cornejo Hernadez, also known as “Adonys,” 25-year-old Franklin Rivera Mendieta, also known as “Mono,” and 33-year-old Josue Sibrian Sanchez, also known as “Sibrian,” with running a corrupt organization that engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, including trafficking minors, involuntary servitude, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping, rape, involuntary deviated sexual intercourse, promoting prostitution and other related offenses.
The alleged crimes happened between February and May.
In the early morning hours of May 30, authorities carried out a raid on two of the apartements in a home in East Whiteland Township. A neighbor who asked not to be named said, aside from some peculiar trash left around, there was nothing to indicate that anything wrong was going on inside.
“In this case, the victims were kept in rooms until they were transported to another location so they weren’t out and about for the public to see in general,” Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan said.
Investigators say the men were holding a 14-year-old girl against her will and forced her to have sex for money with as many as four to five individuals per day, at three different locations in the township.
On May 28, the 14-year-old victim sent a Facebook message to her mother stating that she “didn’t want to be here anymore” and asked that she pick her up at the Wawa on Lancaster Avenue. The mother then contacted the police to inform them where she was supposed to meet her daughter.
The 14-year-old victim told police she was recruited by a female known as “Tiny,” a 17-year-old from Camden, New Jersey, while at a party in Washington, DC.
The two communicated through Snapchat and “Tiny” asked the victim if she wanted to make money. Then, “Tiny” picked up the victim in Maryland with one of the co-defendants.
They allegedly drove to an apartment in Malvern where the victim was forced to perform oral sex on one of the co-defendants as a means of “breaking” and “testing” her for the work she would be doing. They also took pictures of her that were used to advertise her to men who would pay to have sex with her.
Officials say the victim was taken to Walmart to buy “sexy” clothes.
The 14-year-old victim was told to give a fake name and age if anyone asked. She was also told that she and her mother would be killed if she didn’t comply.
While investigating, detectives discovered a second victim, an 18-year-old from Virginia, who said she had been held against her will by the co-defendants between February and March 2020. The victim tells police she met a female through Snapchat who introduced her to one of the co-defendants with the impression he had a job for her working at a bar.
She was brought to East Whiteland Township from Virginia and forced to have sex for money with numerous individuals.
Investigators say the 18-year-old victim was also sexually assaulted by one of the co-defendants, threatened with bodily harm if she attempted to leave, and forced to ingest drugs multiple times.
She was held for approximately three weeks before she was able to escape.
“The allegations, in this case, are difficult to digest because of the calculated and deviant sexual exploitation of the two victims. Our office will continue the investigation to determine if there are other victims of this human sex trafficking organization. We encourage anyone with further information to contact our office. These defendants will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Ryan said.
Dr. Monique Howard, the executive director of Women Organized Against Rape, says organized human sex trafficking can take place anywhere, so the key is for neighbors to always pay attention.
“It makes you feel uncomfortable,” Howard said. “It makes you feel not in my backyard, but it happens in our backyard so one of the best things to do is call the authorities if you think there is something going on.”
Officials are asking anyone else who may have been victimized to come forward.
The three suspects are being held at Chester County Prison and have ICE detainers except for Rivera-Mendieta. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for July 9.
Five other individuals who paid to have sex with the minor and/or adult victim were also arrested. The additional individuals arrested in East Whiteland Township include 25-year-old Diana Ordonez, 29-year-old Luis Cabrera Peralta, 45-year-old Nestor Ruiz, 35-year-old Juan Humberto Ortiz, and 23-year-old Carlos Villatoro Gallegos.