Published in the May 11, 2017 edition
By BILL LAFORME
NORTH READING – North Reading Police played a key role in last week’s arrests in the region for human trafficking, having been the department that brought the matter to the attention of Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
From there, further investigation between state, local and federal authorities resulted in the arrests of five individuals, with addresses in Boston, Gloucester, and Deerfield, NH. The five were charged with allegedly trafficking women for sex at brothels located in Boson, Cambridge, Quincy, and in North Reading. A statement from the North Reading Police noted that 10 women had also been freed from alleged human sex trafficking as a result of the arrests, and that there had been one specific location in town where women were being made to engage in sex for a fee. The women are reportedly now receiving the necessary assistance following their experiences, and a separate announcement from Healey’s office noted that many of the victims had been transported to the region from out of state.
“The North Reading Police Department, like many other municipal police departments across the country, receives tips from its citizens and monitors certain websites, including online classifieds websites, for potential human trafficking and sex crimes occurring in the community,” said Police Chief Mike Murphy in a statement. “That work led North Reading Police Detectives to determine that there was a suspected location in North Reading, where victims of human trafficking were engaging in sexual acts for a fee with people drawn by online advertisements.”
Murphy also criticized the notion that prostitution is a victimless crime, citing the misery that many victims of sex trafficking experience.
“Illicit organizations, like the one dismantled in this case, often try to set up shop for short periods of time, then move on before they are detected. We were fortunate in this case that our Detectives were able to develop the information and gain the cooperation of the public to arrest those responsible,” added Murphy.
The NRPD singled out Detective Lieutenant Thomas Romeo, Detective Thomas Hatch and Detective Sean O’Leary, as well as the North Reading Police Department Patrol Division, for their work leading up to the arrests. The FBI, State Police, Attorney General’s Office, and police departments from six area communities – Boston, Cambridge, Gloucester, Newton, Quincy, and Revere – also worked on the investigation.
According to the Attorney General’s office, some of the defendants are also facing charges of money laundering and conspiracy along with the prostitution-related charges. Three of the five defendants are expected to appear next in Woburn District Court on June 2 for probable cause hearings.