By Owen Boss/Patch
Seven Boston men and another 11 from the suburbs have been charged with seeking sex for a fee from Boston Police detectives in an online prostitution sting, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley announced Tuesday.
The defendants were arrested during two operations executed by the Boston Police Human Trafficking Unit and district detectives.The first, undertaken downtown on Jan. 24, netted the following defendants, all charged with seeking sex for a fee:
- Arlen Fox, 45, of Braintree, also charged with possession of a Class E substance with intent to distribute.
- Michael Harpin, 50, of Millville.
- Eugene Im, 22, of Chestnut Hill.
- Christopher Mullen, 41, of Newton, also charged with resisting arrest.
- Christopher M. Mudry, 51, of Lexington.
- Steven Pelletier, 52, of the South End.
- James Plyant, 39, of Plymouth.
- Jeffrey Shyu, 33, of Brighton. (D.O.B. 8/22/80) of Brighton.
Mullen on Jan. 28, and the remainder on Jan. 29. Mudry, Pelletier, and Shyu – who had no criminal records – resolved their cases on that date by paying $1,000 fines and watching a video from Project TRUST about the risks associated with prostitution.
Conley’s office and the state’s Interagency Human Trafficking Policy Task Force have called for a first-offender program or “john school” like those used in other states, but such a program has yet to be implemented in Massachusetts.Most defendants agreed to pay $200 or more for sex when they contacted Boston Police online, but Fox allegedly offered to pay with Gabapentin, a prescription medication sometimes used as a tranquilizer, and Im allegedly negotiated a price of just $45.
The remaining BMC defendants were released on their own recognizance and are due back in court on various dates between Feb. 21 and May 5.The second operation targeted individuals seeking to trade illicit drugs for sex and was undertaken in South Boston on Jan. 31, when the following defendants were arrested for seeking sex for a fee:
- Guru Chandra-Sekaran, 30, of Brighton.
- Sean Delaney, 29, of Dorchester, also charged with possession of a Class B substance for Percocet recovered at his arrest.
- Mark Farris, (D.O.B. 1/21/89) of Dorchester, also charged with possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute for cocaine recovered at his arrest.
- Michael Lebosky, 47, of Stow.
- Harold E. MacFarland, Jr., 43, of Middleton, also charged with possession of a Class E substance with intent to distribute for Adderall recovered at his arrest.
- Michael J. Marinaro, 26, of Chelmsford, also charged with three counts of possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute for cocaine, ecstasy, and Percocet recovered at his arrest.
- Sean B. Murphy, 32, of Brookline, also charged with possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute for cocaine found at his arrest.
- Jamie D. Romanak, 33, of Stoughton.
- John Scanzillo, 37, of South Boston, also charged with possession of a Class B substance with intent to distribute for cocaine recovered at his arrest.
In recent years, Boston Police have shifted from a model targeting those working as prostitutes to one that seeks to drive down demand by targeting johns. Under Conley’s leadership, Suffolk prosecutors are using the same tactic by seeking penalties that are stronger for those who buy or seek to buy sex than those with similar criminal histories who sell or seek to sell it.
Each of these defendants was arraigned yesterday in South Boston Municipal Court, where all nine are due back on various dates throughout March and April.
“Research consistently shows prostitution to be linked with violence, coercion, sexual assault, and drug addiction,” Conley said. “The average age of entry into the sex trade is in the young teens. Our diversion programs for exploitation victims are nationally-recognized, but the other side of that strategy is reducing demand through stings like this one. If the physical and emotional risks associated with prostitution don’t cause would-be johns to re-think their actions, here’s another reason: the person who placed that online ad could be a Boston Police detective.”
In a landmark 2006 policy shift, Conley voluntarily adopted a “safe harbor” policy for prostituted youth, treating them as victims of exploitation rather than offenders; that voluntary policy was later expanded statewide in Massachusetts’ 2011 human trafficking legislation, to which Conley and Attorney General Martha Coakley contributed key language.
Members of Conley’s staff also direct the Support to End Exploitation Now program, a multi-agency task force that connects young exploitation victims with a wide array of services and has twice been named a Top 50 Innovative Government Program by a Harvard University think tank.