Police in Pittsfield, Mass. arrested two men for allegedly running a prostitution ring at a senior citizen living center.
Joseph E. VanWert, 65, and Randy Lambach, 45, allegedly ran the operation out of VanWert’s apartment at the senior living center, the Berkshire Eagle reported.
Suspect’s foster children recruited
Some of the women are believed to be underage teenagers. Lambach also allegedly recruited some of his former foster children for the prostitution ring, according to reports.
The women were controlled with heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, and psychological abuse. To keep them quiet, the women were threatened or told no one would believe “drug addicts and whores,” the Berkshire Eagle reported.
Lambach allegedly served as a chauffeur for the women, driving them to and from meetings with clients. Some of the meetings took place at VanWert’s apartment at the senior center. Lambach would often wait outside or “watch from a closet or doorway,” according to published reports.
Clients were found by posting pictures of the women on backpage.com. The clients then made arrangements via cell phone, agreeing on fees and the time, date and location. Typical rates were $80 for 30 minutes or up to $200 for an hour. The women were paid in drugs, with Lambach keeping 50 percent to 90 percent of their cash earnings, reports state.
Lambach allegedly paid VanWert in cash and drugs to use the apartment, Van Wert also allegedly paid for sex with the women.
What witnesses said
According to reports, the following allegations were made against Lambach:
- His involvement in prostitution and trafficking spans about 10 years.
- He allegedly showed a potential recruit photos of women who worked for him. Some of them were very young, and of his workers appeared to be about age 15.
- He sometimes drove women to Springfield, Mass., where they worked as strippers and prostitutes. Others were driven out-of-state to meet with customers.
Lambach was charged with four counts of human trafficking and pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court. Van Wert pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, deriving support from prostitution, maintaining a house of prostitution, and sexual conduct for a fee. Additional charges are pending.
Both men are being held without bail until their Nov. 29 hearing.
A police investigation began in the spring, in response to citizen complaints about increased prostitution across the city. Much of the activity happened around “First, Adam, North, Linden and Wahconah streets,” in Pittsfield, according to reports.