STROUDSBURG, MONROE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — After a two-week long jury trial, two men from Bartonsville were convicted of sex and drug trafficking charges at a Pocono hotel.
This is the first time a hotel, a hotel owner, or a hotel general manager have been convicted of criminal sex trafficking offenses for aiding others to engage in that activity in Pennsylvania.
Faizal Bhimani, 43, and Nazim Hassam, 64, were the owner and general manager of the Pocono Plaza Inn Hotel, formerly known as the Quality Inn, in Stroudsburg. According to U.S. Attorney Daivd Freed, the two were convicted of aiding and abetting sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion as well as drug trafficking conspiracy at the hotel.
Bhimani and Hassam were shareholders in Om Sri Sai Inc., a company that owned multiple properties, including a Howard Johnson hotel in Bartonsville. The jury found that all properties owned by the company facilitated the company’s sex trafficking and drug trafficking crimes.
Evidence at the trial showed criminal activity at the Howard Johnson hotel between 2011 and 2019. According to evidence presented, Bhimani made rooms available for sex traffickers and drug dealers and at times took payment from the criminal activity.
Bhimani also traded discounted rooms for free sex, which traffickers would direct their victims to provide. Evidence at the trial showed dozens of women were compelled by multiple traffickers. Several traffickers at the trial admitted to using various methods to compel women to sell sex.
Multiple victims came forward and said they were required to follow orders from the traffickers, and relied entirely on them for food and clothing, and were punished for violations with violence, including sexual assault.
At the trial, evidence showed Bhimani was closely associated with several of the traffickers, and knew of the methods they used to compel their victims.
Employees of the hotel were aware of the activity as well, and evidence showed at least two of the employees engaged in sexual activity with the victims, including Hassam.
According to the Department of Justice, Bhimani would warn the traffickers and drug dealers when law enforcement were at the hotel, including during the 2014 manhunt for Eric Frein.
The trial also presented evidence for high drug activity at the hotel. Police officers in the area described it as a high drug crime area.
Evidence showed that a bartender with the hotel sold cocaine and heroin over the bar. When a manager was made aware, the bartender was not fired nor were police notified.
In total, 40 defendants have been convicted federally as a result of the investigation.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Stroud Area Regional Police Department, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police.