An indictment was unsealed today in federal court in Brooklyn charging Joseph Harris with sex trafficking, brandishing firearms in furtherance of sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The defendant’s arraignment is scheduled for this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steven L. Tiscione.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), and James P. O’Neil, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD), announced the charges.
“As alleged, Joseph Harris engaged in sex trafficking of adult and minor victims, forcing them to prostitute themselves to line his pockets,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “This Office will continue to work diligently with the FBI and our local law enforcement partners to prosecute those who force their victims into sexual slavery.” Mr. Donoghue expressed his grateful appreciation to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in the case.
“As alleged, Harris’s vile actions dehumanized his victims, stripping them of their innocence and forcing them into a life of brutality and neglect – and putting them at risk of further harm from sexual exploitation and narcotics addiction,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Today’s indictment demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure justice for our most vulnerable victims, and to pursue and apprehend those who abuse and exploit children for their own personal gain.”
“Today’s charges further affirm the NYPD’s unwavering commitment to protecting the survivors of sex trafficking and gun violence,” stated NYPD Commissioner O’Neill. “These crimes – especially those involving minors – are among the most heinous in our society. Our job is to ensure that anyone who would seek to profit through the abuse and exploitation of another human being be brought to justice swiftly and successfully. To that end, I thank and commend the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District, the FBI and the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office for contributing to this critical case. Together, we will continue to make the safest large city in the nation even safer.”
As alleged in the indictment and court documents, from July 2017 until his arrest in May 2018, Harris used violence and threats to force women and young girls into prostitution, promoting and managing his business over the Internet and on social media. On May 5, 2018, NYPD officers responded to 911 calls reporting that “girls” were being held against their will by a male later identified as the defendant at an apartment building on St. Marks Avenue in Brooklyn. At the apartment, officers found two adult women and a 16-year-old girl in a basement apartment. Subsequent investigation revealed that Harris had been sex-trafficking numerous victims, including the three females in the apartment basement and another minor female, age 14. Harris regularly carried a firearm and demanded that his victims give him all the money they made. Harris also engaged in sexual intercourse with his victims, including the minors, and provided them with narcotics. A handgun was recovered from the defendant’s residence shortly before his arrest.
If convicted, Harris faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years’ imprisonment and a maximum of life on the sex trafficking charge, and a mandatory consecutive term of seven years’ imprisonment on the charge of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The charges in the indictment are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit, in collaboration with the Brooklyn Human Trafficking Task Force and Kings County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Erin Reid and Assistant District Attorney Sherman Jones from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office are in charge of the prosecution.
JOSEPH HARRIS (also known as “Luis Santana” and “Joey Moscato”)
Brooklyn, New York
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-616 (LDH)