SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that on February 23, 2022, Faizal Bhimani, age 45, of Bartonsville, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 180 months’ imprisonment by U.S. District Court Judge 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, along with two hotel companies, Om Sri Sai, Inc., a Pennsylvania corporation, and the Pocono Plaza Inn hotel, formerly known as the Quality Inn, located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
According to United States Attorney John C. Gurganus, Om Sri Sai, Inc., a company that owned and operated a Howard Johnson hotel located in 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.
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, made rooms available for sex traffickers and drug dealers, and at times took payment for the hotel directly from the proceeds of criminal activity. Bhimani also traded discounted and free rooms for sex, which traffickers would direct their victims to provide. Dozens of women were compelled by multiple traffickers, sometimes called pimps, to conduct prostitution 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 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 co-defendant Nazim 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.
In all, forty defendants have been convicted in federal court 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 successfully dismantled the P Stones as well as a second gang, the Brick City Brims, and disrupted the activities of two more, the Blood Stone Villains and the Bloodhound Brims. Investigators 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.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
This case was also brought as part of a district wide initiative to combat the nationwide epidemic regarding the use and distribution of heroin and other opioids. 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 opioid related offenses.
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. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean A. Camoni, Jenny Roberts and Francis Sempa prosecuted the case.
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