Trial begins for human trafficking suspect

Ebensburg, Cambria County, Pa. - Tuesday, a trial began for a Johnstown man accused of human trafficking.
 
Police say Barshay Dunbar, 36, allegedly prostituted two women in October of 2016 at a Super 8 motel in Richland Township. Investigators said he also set up a website on Backpage.com to advertise their services.
 
Dunbar was arrested on October 28, 2016 at the motel after employees called police. 
 
In a Cambria County court, prosecutors told the jurors that trafficking isn't always how it appears in the movies: victims are not always chained up and forced to perform sexual acts.
 
Prosecutors argued that Dunbar preyed on vulnerable women who were addicted to drugs and forced them into prostitution to feed their addictions.
 
The defense argued that the alleged victims were not forced to do anything.
 
In court, the jury heard witness testimony from Richland Township police and Super 8 motel employees who reported the suspected prostitution.
 
The employees said they called police the morning after Dunbar was arguing with another man about a sexual encounter the men had arranged on the website Backpage.
 
Surveillance video from the hotel shows the two men arguing in the lobby.
 
Another video also shows one of the alleged victims stumbling through the hallways.
 
Employees say her description matched photos of a woman taken in a Super 8 motel room, posted on the Backpage advertisement.
 
One of the alleged victims also testified in court.
 
She said that Dunbar asked her to work for him as a prostitute and in return he would give her drugs and make sure she wasn't sick from heroin withdrawal symptoms.
 
That woman said that Dunbar always made arrangements with clients and she and the other victims were not given cash after the transactions.
 
The trial will continue on Wednesday. The jury will hear about cell phone evidence police said shows that Dunbar set up the sexual encounters.
 
Dunbar's defense attorney said he is not convinced the jury will find that proof.
 
"We look forward to tomorrow to questioning the Commonwealth digital forensic experts. There is no proof my client used the phone or used a website to promote prostitution," said Tim Burns, Dunbar's defense attorney.
 
The district attorney's office said this is the first human trafficking case in Cambria County.
 
Dunbar is facing several charges including trafficking individuals and promoting prostitution. Police also charged Dunbar with possession of 45 stamp bags of heroin.

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