SCRANTON: The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Judge Malachy E. Mannion sentenced Nazim Hassam, age 70, of Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, on May 13, 2022 to 60 months in prison and a $150,000 fine for drug trafficking offenses.
Judge Mannion also sentenced Om Sri Sai, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, to five years of Probation for sex and drug trafficking violations and ordered the company to forfeit $2 million to the government. Judge Mannion also sentenced the Pocono Plaza Inn, formerly known as the Quality Inn, located in Stroudsburg, to five years of Probation and a $50,000 fine for maintaining a drug-related premises.
Hassam and the two hotel companies, along with co-defendant Faizal Bhimani, were convicted of sex trafficking and drug trafficking charges after a two-week jury trial in Scranton, Pennsylvania in October 2020.
According to United States John C. Gurganus, Om Sri Sai, Inc., a company that owned and operated a Howard Johnson hotel located at 1779 N. 9th St., Bartonsville, and Faizal Bhimani, the general manager of that hotel, were both convicted of Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud, and Coercion and Aiding and Abetting the same, and Sex Trafficking Conspiracy, as well as Drug Trafficking Conspiracy and Managing a Drug-Related Premises. The jury also found the Pocono Plaza Inn guilty of Managing a Drug-Related Premises, and Nazim Hassam, part-owner and Vice President of Om Sri Sai and managing shareholder of both hotels, guilty of Drug Trafficking Conspiracy and two counts of Managing a Drug-Related Premises.
The jury further found that all property owned by Om Sri Sai, Inc. was property that facilitated the company’s sex trafficking and drug trafficking crimes and was therefore subject to criminal forfeiture. The company reached an agreement with the government to pay over a cash forfeiture in the amount of $2 million as a substitute asset in lieu of the company’s property.
Bhimani was previously sentenced to 180 months in prison. Judge Mannion also ordered Om Sri Sai, Inc. to pay restitution totaling $277,630 to two sex trafficking victims. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, restitution to victims is mandatory. The restitution in this case represents the value to the defendant and coconspirators of commercial sex services rendered, costs of future trauma counseling, medical expenses, and other costs incurred as a result of the trafficking.
These convictions marked the culmination of a six-year, joint investigation into sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and violent crime in Monroe County by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). This case began in 2014 with an FBI investigation into the Black P Stone gang, a set of the Bloods that was responsible for gun violence and drug trafficking in Monroe County at the time. Local agencies, including the Stroud Area Regional Police Department and the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, joined the effort early on, and eventually expanded beyond the P Stones to uncover more widespread sex and drug trafficking in Monroe County.
The evidence at trial, presented through more than 35 witnesses and over 150 exhibits, established that the Howard Johnson Hotel in Bartonsville was a safe haven for criminal activity between 2011 and 2019. Bhimani, as manager of the Howard Johnson, made rooms available for sex traffickers and drug dealers, and at times took payment for the hotel directly from the proceeds of criminal activity. Hassam, Bhimani, and others placed criminal actors in the rear, first-floor hallway of the Howard Johnson to shield their activities from view from the street and from non-criminal guests. Evidence showed that Hassam accepted direct payment at times from drug traffickers and at times did not enter those individuals into the hotel’s computer records. Testimony established that Hassam was notified by employees of criminal activity, but instructed them not to call police. Police officers testified that Hassam’s hotels were considered high-crime areas and that they responded to at least six overdoses at the two hotels, at least one of which resulted in death.
Bhimani also traded discounted and free rooms for sex, which sex traffickers would direct their victims to provide. Dozens of women were compelled by multiple traffickers, sometimes called pimps, to engage in commercial sex in the hotel either by physical force, threats, false promises, or coercion, including through blackmail and drug addiction. Women who were addicted to heroin, crack, or other controlled substances were provided with just enough drugs to keep them working, and pimps used their addictions and the threat of withdrawal to control them. Several admitted sex traffickers testified at the trial, explaining how they used these various methods to compel women to sell sex and turn over all of the proceeds. Multiple survivors also testified that they were required to follow the traffickers’ rules, were forced to rely entirely on the traffickers for food, clothing, even hygiene products, and they were often punished for violations with violence, including sexual assault.
Bhimani was closely associated with several of these traffickers, the evidence showed, and knew of the methods used to compel the victims to have sex for money. Other employees at the hotel knew as well, and the evidence showed that at least two other employees engaged in sex with victims, including Hassam. Bhimani also warned sex traffickers and drug dealers when law enforcement were present at the hotel, including during the manhunt for Eric Frein in 2014. Several admitted sex traffickers and drug dealers testified to successfully evading detection by police thanks to warnings from Bhimani. The hotel allowed known criminals to check in under assumed names or even street names, and Bhimani and Hassam both took steps to obstruct police efforts to locate suspects.
The Court found that Hassam knew about the criminal activity at his hotels, directed employees not to turn drug dealers and drug users away, and actively allowed criminal actors to rent rooms at the hotels so he could make money. The Court also concluded that Hassam testified falsely at trial and enhanced his sentencing guidelines accordingly for Obstruction of Justice.
In all, forty defendants have been convicted federally as a result of this investigation, many of whom trafficked women and drugs in the Bartonsville Howard Johnson and the Pocono Plaza Inn. Other defendants have been charged and convicted in state courts. The investigation has resulted in the dismantlement of the P Stones as well as a second gang, the Brick City Brims, and the disruption of two more, the Blood Stone Villains and the Bloodhound Brims. Investigators have seized multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine, as well as quantities of fentanyl, cocaine base (“crack”), methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (“molly”), and took at least 10 illegal firearms off the streets.
This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Stroud Area Regional Police Department, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean A. Camoni and Jenny Roberts.
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.
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