SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Intermediate District of Pennsylvania announced that on February 23, 2022, Faizal Bhimani, 45, of Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 180 months in prison by the District Court Judge. U.S. District Malachy E. Mannion for sex trafficking and drug trafficking offenses.
Bhimani’s sentencing follows a two-week jury trial in Scranton in October 2020, which concluded with the jury returning guilty verdicts against Bhimani and co-defendant Nazim Hassam, as well as two hotel companies , Om Sri Sai, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, and the Pocono Plaza Inn, formerly known as Quality Inn, located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
According to U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus, Om Sri Sai, Inc., a company that owned and operated a Howard Johnson hotel in Bartonsville, and Faizal Bhimani, the hotel’s general manager, were both convicted of sex trafficking. by force. , fraud, coercion and aiding and abetting, and sex trafficking conspiracy, as well as drug trafficking conspiracy and running a drug-related premise. The jury also found the Pocono Plaza Inn guilty of running a drug-related establishment, and Nazim Hassam, co-owner and vice-president of Om Sri Sai and managing shareholder of both hotels, guilty of conspiracy to traffic in drugs and two counts of managing drug trafficking. – related premises.
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 (OECDTF). This case began in 2014 with an FBI investigation into the Black P Stone gang, a group of 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 sex trafficking and drugs more prevalent in Monroe County.
Evidence at trial, presented by more than 35 witnesses and more than 150 exhibits, established that the Howard Johnson Hotel in Bartonsville was a haven for criminal activity between 2011 and 2019. Bhimani, as manager, put rooms available to sex traffickers and drug traffickers. , and sometimes took payment from the hotel directly out of the proceeds of crime. Bhimani also traded discounted and free rooms for sex, which traffickers would ask their victims to provide. Dozens of women were coerced by multiple traffickers, sometimes called pimps, into prostitution in the hotel either through physical force, threats, false promises or coercion, including blackmail and drug abuse. Women who were addicted to heroin, crack, or other controlled substances were given just enough drugs to keep them in work, and pimps used their addiction and the threat of withdrawal to control them. Several known sex traffickers testified at trial, explaining how they used these various methods to coerce women into selling sex and handing over all proceeds. Several survivors also testified that they were required to follow the rules of the traffickers, that they were forced to depend entirely on the traffickers for food, clothing and even hygiene products, and that they were often punished for violent violations, including sexual assault.
Bhimani was closely associated with several of these traffickers and knew the methods used to coerce victims into having sex for money. Other hotel employees also knew about it, and evidence showed that at least two other employees had sex with victims, including co-defendant Nazim Hassam. Bhimani has also warned sex traffickers and drug traffickers when law enforcement was present at the hotel, including during the 2014 manhunt for Eric Frein. known drug dealers testified that they managed to evade detection by the police thanks to Bhimani’s warnings. The hotel has allowed known criminals to check in under assumed names or even street names, and both Bhimani and Hassam have taken steps to hamper police efforts to locate suspects.
A total of forty defendants have been convicted in federal court as a result of this investigation, many of whom trafficked women and drugs at the Bartonsville Howard Johnson and the Pocono Plaza Inn. Other defendants have been charged and convicted in state courts. The investigation succeeded in dismantling the P Stones as well as a second gang, the Brick City Brims, and disrupting the activities of two others, the Blood Stone Villains and the Bloodhound Brims. Investigators seized several kilograms of heroin and cocaine, as well as quantities of fentanyl, cocaine base (“crack”), methamphetamine, marijuana and MDMA (“molly”), and removed at least 10 weapons street fires.
This lawsuit is part of a larger investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OECDTF). The OECDTF is a federal, state and local cooperative approach to combating drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting drug trafficking organizations nationally and area and coordinating the law enforcement and resources necessary to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize its assets.
The case is being prosecuted under the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, the centerpiece of the Justice Department’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program that has been shown to be effective in reducing violent crime. Through the PSN, a wide range of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime issues in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, the PSN focuses its law enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with local prevention and rehabilitation programs for a lasting reduction in crime.
This case was also brought as part of a district-wide initiative to address the national epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and other opioids. Led by the United States Attorney’s Office, the heroine initiative targets heroin traffickers operating in the Central 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 opioid-related offenses .
The case was investigated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Stroud Area Regional Police Department, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office and the State Police. of Pennsylvania. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean A. Camoni, Jenny Roberts, and Francis Sempa prosecuted the case.
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