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Justice News

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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

SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Mark Cook, age 38, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a superseding indictment charging additional counts of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking by force and coercion, a drug conspiracy count, and a wire fraud charge.

According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the superseding indictment alleges that Cook, who used the street name of “Lucky,” used force or coercion in connection with two additional victims of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking, conspired with others to distribute cocaine in February through April 2015, and, committed wire fraud in relation to a vehicle insurance claim in August-September 2016.

The superseding indictment also contains the original charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force and coercion, three counts of sex trafficking by force and coercion, possession with intent to distribute heroin, “molly,” and cocaine, and attempted witness tampering.

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

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, and the Scranton Police.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.

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 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.  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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Human Trafficking
Updated December 20, 2016