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Press Release

Scranton Man Indicted For Sex Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, And Attempted Witness Tampering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Pennsylvania

SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced today that a federal grand jury in Scranton returned an indictment on October 25, 2016, charging a Scranton man with sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, drug trafficking, and attempting to tamper with a witness.

According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Mark Cook, age 38, who used the street name of “Lucky,” conspired with others to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion involving three female victims; distributed heroin, cocaine, and “molly”; and attempted to tamper with a witness. It is alleged that all of the offenses occurred between April 2015 and October 2016.

According to the indictment, Cook used a website to post advertisements for prostitution, rented hotel rooms in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, and the Poconos 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 United States Attorney Francis P. Sempa is prosecuting the case.

The four 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 charge and attempted witness tampering charge each carry a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

This case was 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 For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources.

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 maximum penalty under federal law is life in prison, 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.


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Updated October 26, 2016

Project Safe Childhood