John C. Guerra, who was on the lam for four years, received 37 to 74 years in state prison.
John C. Guerra spent years using drug addiction, intimidation, physical abuse and the internet to prostitute numerous young women from motel rooms in Northeast Philadelphia.
Then, just as authorities were about to bring him to justice in 2010, the Frankford resident disappeared. He remained on the lam for the next four years, but a city judge finally dropped the hammer on Guerra last Thursday, sentencing the defendant to 37 to 74 years in state prison.
Last June 29, the same jurist, Common Pleas Court Judge Sean F. Kennedy, convicted Guerra of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of children, corrupt organizations, drug trafficking, conspiracy, assault and related offenses following a bench trial.
“This is a case of sexual exploitation of vulnerable young women, and this defendant got what he justly deserved — a lengthy prison sentence,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Guerra and his co-defendants exploited young women for profit and exposed them to terrible harm and physical risk.”
Deputy Attorneys General Heather Castellano and Michelle Laucella prosecuted the case.
According to investigators, Guerra, 41, formerly of the 4300 block of Tackawanna Street, operated the prostitution ring at multiple Northeast motels, including the Roosevelt Motor Inn at 7600 Roosevelt Blvd. and the Days Inn at 4200 Roosevelt Blvd.
Guerra used online classifieds to drum up business and targeted vulnerable young women, plying them with drugs or cash or both, to recruit them as de facto sex slaves. At least one of the victims was 17 when she began turning 10 to 15 tricks a day at Guerra’s command, authorities said.
The State Police’s Organized Crime Eastern Task Force led the investigation, which determined Guerra conducted the illegal business at least from 2008 through 2010. A statewide grand jury charged Guerra and three other men in 2010 by indictment, but Guerra disappeared. State police captured him in West Philly on Aug. 7, 2014.
Guerra isn’t the only pimp who allegedly used the Roosevelt Inn as a base of operations. The hotel has been the scene of a variety of nefarious behavior for years.
In September 2013, a man was arrested after he allegedly picked up a 12-year-old runaway in Frankford, brought her to the motel and forced her to have sex with him. Two months later, three gunmen allegedly forced their way into a room and stole cash, cell phones and a computer from two women.
In December 2013, undercover police responded to an online prostitution ad and arrested a 17-year-old girl along with her 50-year-old pimp at the motel. Four months later, two gunmen engaged in a shootout in the hallways and stairwells with other patrons fleeing for cover. Police circulated a video of the gunfight, which lasted several minutes, and arrested the two combatants weeks later.
During an August 2015 criminal trial for one of the gunmen, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Mitrick famously referred to the Roosevelt Inn as the city’s “epicenter of human trafficking.”
Last July, police found two dead women inside a room at the motel. The two West Virginia women in their 30s had plastic bags over their heads and their hands bound behind their backs. Investigators later ruled the women committed suicide.
In March, attorneys for an alleged human trafficking victim sued the motel, its management company and the company’s owner seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for a teenage girl who was 14 when a pimp began prostituting her at the Roosevelt. According to the lawsuit, the girl was held at the motel in 2013 and ’14, kept in a guarded room, dressed in sexually explicit clothing, “treated in an aggressive manner” and forced to have sex with a litany of men.
The lawsuit alleges the motel operators knew about the illegal activity, but allowed it to continue, facilitated it and profited from it by collecting cash payments for the rooms used by sex traffickers. ••
William Kenny can be reached at 215–354–3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Times on Twitter @NETimesOfficial.