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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Additional Charges Filed Against Scranton Man In Sex And Drug Trafficking Case

SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a federal grand jury in Scranton returned a third superseding indictment today charging Mark Cook, age 39, with additional counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and two counts of interstate prostitution.

According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, the third superseding indictment alleges Cook, who used the street name of “Lucky,” used force or coercion in connection with additional victims of sex trafficking during 2015 and October 2016. It also alleges that Cook transported another person from Pennsylvania to Connecticut for purposes of prostitution between February 25 and March 2, 2016, and on March 7, 2016 persuaded another person to travel from Pennsylvania to New York to engage in prostitution.

The third superseding indictment also contains the original charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force and coercion, previous counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, a count of attempted sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, “molly,” and cocaine, distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine, attempted witness tampering, and wire fraud.

According to the third superseding indictment, Cook used a website to post advertisements for prostitution, rented hotel rooms in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and elsewhere for prostitution purposes, and used intimidation, threats, physical assaults, and illegal drugs to further the prostitution business.

The charges against Cook resulted from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and Scranton Police.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Francis P. Sempa and Jenny P. Roberts are prosecuting the case.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.

Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The sex trafficking offenses each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a potential maximum sentence of life in prison. The charge of persuading another person to travel in interstate commerce for purposes of prostitution carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The interstate prostitution charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The drug charges and attempted witness tampering charge each carry a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The wire fraud charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and the attempted witness tampering count carries a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.

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Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Updated July 24, 2018