PHILADELPHIA — A Kensington man has been convicted by a jury of human trafficking for the first time in a Philadelphia case involving adult victims.
Monday morning, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced the jury found Richard Collins, 50, guilty of keeping the women, who were addicted to opioids, in his house and forcing them to engage in commercial sex for access to drugs.
.@DA_LarryKrasner, Family Violence and Sexual Assault prosecutors, and @PhillyPolice officials today announce the first ever @philadao human trafficking conviction in a case involving adult victims. pic.twitter.com/fjFQCZ6X2j— Philadelphia DAO (@philadao) August 12, 2019
The D.A.’s office reported the trafficking investigation was opened on June 18, 2018.
That was after one of five adult women victims — who has since been killed —
“climbed over barbed wire fencing”
to escape from Collins’ Kensington house and get help after realizing what was happening.
She told the Philadelphia police Special Victims Unit and reported three other women were being held there, on the 800 block of E. Hilton Street.
Within hours, a search warrant was executed and those three other victims were recovered.
“upon further investigation, a fourth victim, also a woman, was recovered.”
All were between 20 and 28 years old, and
“were subjected to physical and sexual assault,”
as well as punishment by withholding
“the opioids to which they were addicted, which led them to become extremely ill.”
Collins was arrested on March 22.
Three of the four surviving women testified during the trial, which started last Tuesday and ended with the verdicts on Friday.
Collins was convicted of four counts of trafficking in individuals, three counts of involuntary servitude, one count of rape — unconscious/unaware, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of strangulation.
According to District Attorney Krasner,
“Trafficking cases involving adult victims are historically difficult to prove, in part because of stigma associated with commercial sex work as well as harmful misconceptions about people who struggle with addiction.”
Branwen McNabb, supervisor of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, talked about the first victim, who had escaped from Collins’ house and told authorities what was happening.
“This team, which includes Philadelphia police SVU investigators, made a promise to Victim 1’s mother to make sure the City of Philadelphia knows about her incredible, selfless bravery,” McNabb said. “Tragically, she was killed in an act of domestic violence unrelated to this case at the age of 24. Our unit will continue to seek justice for people like her, who struggle against incredible odds for better lives.”
Authorities are encouraging victims of similar crimes to come forward with messages like this:
All people, including sex workers, should have equal access to justice and the law. You will be believed by our offices. pic.twitter.com/WZ9Qvoemqw— Philadelphia DAO (@philadao) August 12, 2019
The four surviving women are taking steps toward recovery and repairing their lives, after the trauma inflicted upon them.
To report suspected human trafficking or to seek help, contact the Philadelphia Police Department’s SVU at 215–685–3264, or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1–888–373–7888.