In Push to End Human Trafficking, AG Healey Charges Five Individuals in Multiple Schemes to Exploit Vulnerable Women
AG Joined by Law Enforcement Partners, Survivor and Advocacy Groups in Commitment to Combat Trafficking
BOSTON – In her office’s continued push to end human trafficking in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey was joined today by federal and local law enforcement partners and survivor and advocacy organizations to announce the indictment of five individuals in connection with three separate human trafficking schemes.
“No little girl grows up wanting to be involved in a life of sexual exploitation. They do not dream about a career selling their bodies as commodities,” said AG Healey. “The victims of these egregious crimes have not chosen this path for themselves. Traffickers prey on vulnerable people who often have no other options. We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement, as well as survivor and advocacy groups, to end the exploitation of people in Massachusetts.”
The AG’s Office has been aggressive in tackling the problem of human trafficking and led efforts to pass comprehensive human trafficking legislation in 2011. That law, which established the state crimes of human trafficking for sexual servitude and forced labor, has been a significant tool in the AG’s Office’s efforts to fight human trafficking as well as in the efforts of others across the state including law enforcement, advocates and public officials.
Through the Human Trafficking Division, the AG’s Office has charged 25 individuals in connection with human trafficking since the law was passed.
The AG’s Office is also working with the City of Boston and Demand Abolition’s CEASE Network to reduce the demand of sex purchasing by criminalizing buyers and providing support services to those who are trafficked.
Today, the AG’s Office announced the indictment of the following people in connection with human trafficking:
HAROLD JACK LUCAS
Harold Jack Lucas, age 61, of Lowell was indicted by a Statewide Grand Jury on charges of Trafficking in Persons for Sexual Servitude (3 counts), Deriving Support from Prostitution (2 counts) and Possession with Intent to Distribute Fentanyl. He will be arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court at a later date.
Lucas was charged in connection with supplying women with drugs to coerce them into engaging in sexual acts for his profit. He was initially arrested by Lowell Police on Jan. 22. The AG’s Office began an investigation after the case was referred by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office.
The investigation revealed that Lucas allegedly supplied multiple women with fentanyl in exchange for engaging in commercial sexual activity. According to authorities, Lucas would distribute the drugs two to three times a day to the women and would transport and drop them off at various locations where they would solicit and engage in sexual acts for a fee.
The women allegedly provided all of the money they earned to Lucas, who also at times required the women to reach a certain quota of encounters each night.
In February, a law criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl went into effect. Fentanyl is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin. AG Healey authored and advocated for the passage of the legislation, which creates the crime of trafficking of fentanyl for amounts greater than 10 grams and authorizes incarceration in state prison up to 20 years for those convicted.
This case is being prosecuted by Deb Bercovitch, Chief of AG Healey’s Human Trafficking Division, and Assistant Attorney General Gina Kwon of AG Healey’s Enterprise, Major and Cyber Crimes Division, with assistance from Victim Witness Advocate Rebecca Auld of the AG’s Victim Services Division and Paralegal Emily Bartlett. The investigation was handled by the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, the Lowell Police Department, and Investigator Michelle Silva of the AG’s Financial Investigations Division.
COURTNEY C. NICHOLOPOULOS/JON A. LOWELL
Courtney C. Nicholopoulos, age 40, and Jon A. Lowell, age 45, both of Hubbardston, were indicted by a Statewide Grand Jury on charges of Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude (3 counts each) and Conspiracy to Traffic Persons for Sexual Servitude (3 counts each). Lowell was also charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee (3 counts). They will be arraigned in Worcester and Middlesex Superior Courts at later dates.
They were indicted in connection with recruiting and luring women to engage in sex acts at hotels in Middlesex and Worcester Counties with false promises of large payments in return.
The AG’s Office began an investigation after the case was referred by the Worcester District Attorney’s Office. Worcester and Auburn Police arrested Nicholopoulos and Lowell at a Holiday Inn Express in Auburn on July 15, 2015 after conducting an undercover sting.
The AG’s investigation revealed that Nicholopoulos and Lowell worked together to recruit women through online advertisements to engage in commercial sexual activity at hotels in Auburn, Billerica, Northborough, Westminster and Worcester.
The defendants allegedly characterized these events as “swingers’ parties” in the ads soliciting women and promised payment between $5,000 and $12,000 each for engaging in sexual acts with multiple men at these events. The women were not allowed to leave the room during the duration of the events and were not permitted to tell the men that they were being paid for the sex acts.
Authorities allege that Nicholopoulos and Lowell advertised the events as “gangbang parties” to men and charged them an entrance fee. The defendants allegedly kept all of the proceeds for themselves and had no intention of paying the women any of the money that was promised. The women recruited by Nicholopolous and Lowell were, in some instances, facing financial difficulties that made them particularly vulnerable to Nicholopoulous’ representations regarding compensation.
Lowell also allegedly bought sex from several of the women before the events at the hotels and falsely promised to pay them.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Snook of the AG’s Human Trafficking Division and Assistant Attorney General David Clayton of the AG’s Criminal Bureau, with assistance from Victim Witness Advocates Rebecca Auld and Megan Murphy of the AG’s Victim Services Division. It was investigated by Investigator Daniel DeAngelis of AG Healey’s Financial Investigations Division, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, and the Auburn and Worcester Police Departments.
ELENA GASTON/CARLOS VELASQUEZ
Elena Gaston, (a.k.a. “Dana”), age 61, of Revere and Carlos Velasquez (a.k.a. “Tony”), age 49, of Chelsea, were indicted by a Suffolk Grand Jury on one count each of charges of Trafficking in Persons for Sexual Servitude, Conspiracy to Traffic in Persons for Sexual Servitude, Deriving Support from Prostitution, and Money Laundering. They will be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date.
They were charged in connection with trafficking women for sex through an online “escort” service. Gaston was originally arrested Dec. 2, 2015 in Revere by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office with assistance from Revere Police. Velasquez was arrested on Dec. 3, 2015 in Bethel, Pennsylvania after Massachusetts State Police obtained a warrant for his arrest.
The AG’s Office began an investigation into “bluemoonescort.com” and “tempu.com,” two websites that advertised sexual “escort” services in the Boston area in exchange for cash. Gaston allegedly owned the websites and operated them as an Internet “escort” business known as “Jaas.inc.”
Gaston allegedly arranged for the women to meet with men and provide commercial sexual services. Velasquez allegedly photographed the women for the websites and allegedly advised them on the expectation that escorts provide sex in exchange for money.
Authorities allege that Gaston and Velasquez profited financially from “Jaas.Inc” and the commercial sexual exploitation of the women, as well as managed the daily financial and logistical aspects of the business.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Snook of AG Healey’s Human Trafficking Division, with assistance from the Massachusetts State Police assigned to the AG’s Office, the AG’s Digital Evidence Lab, Investigators Sallyann Nelligan and Daniel DeAngelis, of AG Healey’s Financial Investigations Division and Victim Witness Advocate Rebecca Auld, of the AG’s Victim Services Division. The Revere, Chelsea and Boston Police Departments also assisted in this investigation, along with along with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
All of these charges are allegations and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
AG Healey’s Office has a dedicated Human Trafficking Division that focuses on policy, prevention and prosecution. It includes a team of specialized prosecutors, victim advocates and Massachusetts State Police troopers who handle high impact, multi-jurisdictional human trafficking investigations and prosecutions across the state. The division also works closely with other state, federal and local agencies and NGOs in the development of policy initiatives and training programs.
Below are statements of support from our partners:
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Richard D. McKeon
“One of the most important priorities of any police department is protection of the most vulnerable members of society, and those young women who are victimized by human trafficking. Human trafficking is a crime that lurks in the shadows. The State Police are dedicated to working with our partners in the Attorney General’s office and other agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice and bring justice to their victims.”
Homeland Security Investigations Boston Special Agent in Charge Matt Etre
“HSI’s primary goal in pursuing human trafficking is to end this form of modern-day slavery and bring the victims out of the shadows by collaborating with our law enforcement partners and non-government organizations. As these cases demonstrate, we in law enforcement work best when we work together. That is the only way we will tackle this growing problem.”
Revere Police Chief Joseph Cafarelli
“The Revere Police applaud the efforts and goals of the Attorney General’s Office in combating the crime of human trafficking in its varied forms and their encouragement of forming working relationships among various local, state, and federal agencies. We further commend the AG’s Office in addressing the byproducts associated with victims issues that arise during such investigations. The Revere Police stand committed in the fight against human trafficking and have dedicated officers assigned to state and federal task forces to combat this growing issue.”
Lisa Goldblatt Grace, My Life My Choice
“At My Life My Choice, we see every day the violence and degradation of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Of the 143 young people referred to us last year, the average age of entry into the sex industry was 14 years old. We are thrilled with the Attorney General’s leadership in regard to ending sex trafficking in the Commonwealth.”
Lina Nealon, Founding Director of Demand Abolition
“These types of indictments are crucial for ending commercial sexual exploitation in our communities – they demonstrate that the illegal sex trade is a thriving marketplace in our own backyard. We congratulate Attorney General Healey for her leadership on this issue and we are honored to be partnering with her on the next target, the sex buyers who fuel this inherently harmful industry. Without sex buyers’ money, there is no incentive for pimps and traffickers to run their criminal networks. To fight this problem we need a truly holistic approach, which includes law enforcement action like this, more support for victims, and an overall reduction in the demand for illegal paid sex.”