Monroe County Man Pleads Guilty To Heroin And Sex Trafficking Charges; Co-Defendant Admits To Drug Trafficking
SCRANTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a Monroe County man pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion in Scranton, to participating in a heroin trafficking conspiracy that stretched from Stroudsburg to New York to the state of Maine, and to a forcing or coercing women into engaging in prostitution in northeastern Pennsylvania.
According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the defendant, Jose Velazquez, age 26, who used the street name “Sev,” admitted to conspiring with others to distribute more than 100 grams of heroin (which is approximately equivalent to 4,000 retail bags of heroin) and to sex trafficking an adult female between 2012 and 2014.
Velazquez was indicted along with six other people by a federal grand jury in Scranton in September 2015, as a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, Maine State Police, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and local police in Monroe County. In October 2016, Velazquez was charged in a superseding indictment with drug trafficking and sex trafficking crimes.
The superseding indictment alleges that Velazquez participated in a street gang known as the Black P-Stones; that male gang members were “beaten-in” to the gang and female members were “sexed-in” to the gang. The superseding indictment further alleged that members of the Black P-Stones obtained heroin in New York and distributed the heroin in Stroudsburg and locations in the state of Maine. According to the superseding indictment, couriers were used to transport heroin from New York to Maine.
The superseding indictment alleges that females were “sexed-in” to the gang by being forced to engage in sex with male gang members; recruited and coerced to engage in prostitution; advertised as adult escorts on a website; provided with heroin and other drugs; and placed in various area hotels/motels to work as prostitutes. It is alleged that the sex trafficking defendants used threats, force, and intimidation to coerce females to engage in prostitution.
In today’s proceeding, Velazquez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute in excess of 100 grams of heroin, and one count of sex trafficking by force or coercion. He faces a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence and a potential 40-year prison sentence for the drug conspiracy charge; and a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence and a potential life sentence for the sex trafficking charge
One of Velazquez’s co-defendants, Sean Griffin, age 22, who used the street name “Kritical,” also pleaded guilty today before Judge Mannion to participating in the same drug trafficking conspiracy. He admitted to being a sub-distributor of between 100 grams and 400 grams of heroin for the Black P-Stones. He faces a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Judge Mannion ordered pre-sentence investigations to be completed. Sentencing for both defendants will be scheduled at a later date.
This case was brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the Heroin Initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and is part of a coordinated effort among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who commit heroin related offenses.
This case was also brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.
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 maximum penalty under federal law for these offenses is life imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. 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.
# # #