James Parham, 75, has been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a nuisance after he was allegedly discovered running a prostitution ring from the Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building in New Jersey and using some elderly residents as sex workers, reports New Jersey’s The Record.
His accomplice, Cheryl Chaney, 66, stands accused of allowing residents and visitors to use crack in their apartments, according to police. In addition to the drug paraphernalia and nuisance charges, Chaney was also charged with being in possession of crack cocaine.
Read more from NBC New York below:
Englewood Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe told NBC 4 New York on Tuesday that Parham ran the prostitution ring through his apartments, and employed a mix of young women and older residents.
O’Keefe says there was also sex and drug use going on in common areas of the complex, and that some seniors were afraid to venture into certain areas because they were afraid for their lives.
Richard Allaway, a resident, says he and others were aware of “a lot of nonsense going on.”
Kevin Thomas, who has loved ones living in the complex, said he couldn’t understand why older people were turning to crime.
“Why they wait so late in life to start doing stuff they should have did years ago, or shouldn’t have touched period, why do you wait this late?” he said.
Selma McDuffie, 54, who was also arrested in connection with the case, was found to be in possession of a crack pipe and suspended from her position as a police-run school crossing guard, reports the Associated Press.
Lack of security is believed to be partly to blame for the unusual nature of the crime, and its scope. Resident complaints about the rise in crime led to an investigation which included round-the-clock police patrol.
There have been no reports of diminished mental or physical capacity that would make the elderly sex workers victims of exploitation and neglect, but Chief O’Keefe told New Jersey’s The Record that it was a tragic situation.
“Essentially, they were prisoners in their own building,” O’Keefe said. “I wasn’t going to allow that to continue.”
Reportedly, none of sex workers have been arrested in connection with the crime. Though some of them are elderly, Parham allegedly told police that most were young women with addictions that he would pimp out to younger neighbors.
The Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building is a 152-unit complex, exclusively for low-income people 62 and older, and disabled people 55 and older.
Both Parham and Chaney are in the process of being evicted.