Nineteen individuals were charged on Thursday by federal prosecutors of participating in a sex-trafficking ring that exploited women and girls as young as 13 years old, residents of Hawthorne Cedar Knolls, a facility for emotionally disturbed teenagers in Westchester County, operated by the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, the NY Times reported.
Chris Giglio, a spokesman for the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, told the Times that the agency, is cooperating with federal investigators.
None of the defendants were staff members of Hawthorne. However, the facility, which is in the process of closing down, has been blamed for its failure to keep teenagers from running away, and falling prey to abusers.
The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services earlier this year announced it would close down Hawthorne, in response to growing complaints from residents of Mount Pleasant about teenagers wandering the town.
In 2016, Mount Pleasant started fining the charity $250 for every call local police received about residents gone AWOL.
Only six children remain on the grounds of Hawthorne, and they are expected to be moved to a new location by Tuesday, according to Monica Mahaffey, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Children and Family Services.
The agency’s website presents the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls (HCK) Residential Treatment Center as “a home that provides mental health, social, and therapeutic services. A variety of treatment programs includes recreation, vocational, writing, and art therapy as well as drug treatment and prevention for at-risk youth. Approximately 90 beds are available for girls age 13 to 18 and boys age 8 to 18 who exhibit a variety of emotional problems. These children have been referred by Local Departments of Social Services or the local Committee of Special Education or Social Services.
“At HCK, they’ll receive comprehensive treatment, education, vocational training, supervised living, and exposure to independent living skills. Family involvement is an important component of the treatment even, or especially when being removed from the family environment is part of the treatment. At HCK, children are given permission to dream, to hope for and achieve a better life.”