A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next Wednesday for a Delaware County man who, District Attorney Jack Whelan this week said, is the first to be charged under Pennsylvania’s new human trafficking legislation for engaging in a sex act with a person he knew was a victim of human trafficking.
Aston resident, 28 year-old Matthew Jeffrey Sipps, of the 100 block of Sweigart Lane, is charged with patronizing a victim of a sexual servitude, a second degree felony; concealment of the whereabouts of a child, a third degree felony; and corruption of minors, a misdemeanor. The arrest follwed an investigation conducted by Det. Mark Bucci, of the county Criminal Investigation Division (CID) Child Abuse Unit and Aston Township Sgt. Michael Ruggieri.
On April 23, 2015, Aston officer Thomas Hearty was contacted by the North Providence Rhode Island Police Department about a 16 year-old female victim who called her mother to be picked up from Sweigart Lane. The victim had been missing for eight weeks, according to her mother.
During the investigation, detectives learned the victim used the internet seeking work as an escort and ultimately met a man in Rhode Island who took her to New Jersey and told her they were going to have sex because she was now “working” for him. After having sex with her several times over the course of three days, the girl was told it was time for her to work.
The man took non-nude, scantily dressed photographs of the girl and posted them on a website advertising “18 year-old Italian cutie Maria on spring break looking to go wild.” Over a two-week period, the child victim met four men for sex and was paid approximately $2,500 which was split with the pimp.
A month earlier, Sipps responded to the internet ad and met the girl at a hotel on four occasions and paid for sex. At one point, Sipps told the girl he wanted to take her away from her current environment.
She told him her real age and that she was a runaway from Rhode Island but he moved forward with his plan and took her to his home in Aston where he lived with his mother and two adult brothers. The victim stayed with Sipps for a month and had sex several times, telling her not to leave, stay in Sipps’ room and not socialize with his family.
For over a week she told Sipps she wanted to go home but he refused, eventually offering her a cell phone in his name that she used to call her mother in Rhode Island who then called her local police.
In May 2015, FBI Special Agent Michael Goodhue and Bucci met with Sipps who admitted meeting the girl in Maple Shade, NJ after answering the internet ad. Sipps was arrested Monday by police and arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Diane Holefelder who set bail at 10 percent of $50,000. Assistant District Attorney Pearl Kim, chief of Human Trafficking, will be prosecuting the case.
Through a separate federal investigation, the alleged pimp who turned the girl out initially was later identified as Raymond Justis and on March 30, he pled guilty to federal charges of sex trafficking a minor and was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison following prosecution in federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle L. Morgan.