Search For Online Romance Turned to Escape From Sex Trafficking, Woman Says

It begins like many relationships—on dating websites and apps. There is a connection, online conversation and then perhaps a visit.

But for Staysha Hackmann that’s where the similarities end.

Hackmann says she was manipulated into working for a sex trafficker she met online. She made as much as $1,700 a night over several months, before leaving in the middle of the night while he was in jail.

NBC 5 is not naming the alleged trafficker because he has not been charged with a crime.

“He will take care of you, take you out, make you feel special,” Hackmann said. “And [he will] just completely make you fall in love with him.”

Hackmann details an elaborate, seemingly painstaking process of being coerced into the life she eventually ran away from.

“He makes them feel like he cares enough to let them test the waters as much as they need before they commit,” Hackmann says.

But once they commit—it is straight to work, according to Hackmann. And work is a nine hour day at a strip club, six days a week. And all of your proceeds go to him.

“You count your money and write your total and your number on the top dollar bill and you hand it to his number one. His number one … hands it to him,” she says.

Last month—NBC 5 reported on a Plainfield mother, Danyell, whose 20-year-old daughter dealt with the same man. Danyell requested only her first name be used for this story.

“He had been in my home via FaceTime, so she had been face to face with him and he’d groomed her quite well,” Danyell said of the man she says manipulated her daughter.

Hackmann says that is part of the plan. First there is initial contact, then eventually a visit.

“Once he has the information he needs to get you to fall in love with him, he will bring you out for a visit,” Hackmann says.

According to Hackmann, that visit would include a weekend of dinners, movies, Broadway shows, whatever it took.

Danyell says that’s exactly what happened to her daughter.

“He was wining and dining her all weekend, you know, the glamorous life,” she said.

The alleged trafficker’s next step, according to Hackmann, was to send the girls back home.

“He’s had girls come multiple times for multiple visits in order to really sink his claws in and make them feel he cares,” Hackmann says.

Many come back, according to Hackmann, and when they do, he puts them right to work in strip clubs in the Philadelphia area.

“You work until the club closes,” Hackmann said.

In 2008 federal prosecutors convicted the man of running a prostitution ring that spanned the east coast states of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York. The federal charge says he ran “at least five prostitutes at a time who he required to work six days a week” for 10 hours a day.

He served four and a half years for that crime, according to court records.

Hackmann also says this alleged trafficker went to extreme lengths to avoid prosecution, stressing the women were with him of their own free will. She said he even had them sign notarized statements to that effect.

“It’s very clever,” Hackmann says.

Hackmann is back at home in Oregon and says sharing her story is part of her healing process.

She also wants to take a stand and help others.

“For me, people need to know, I have a name, I have wishes, hopes, dreams, desires just like everyone else,” she said. “I’m not an object.”

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