Businessman gets decade in prison in human trafficking case
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut businessman was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday in connection with what prosecutors said was a human trafficking ring that preyed on young men who were mentally ill and intellectually disabled.
State Judge Robin Pavia in Danbury imposed the prison time on Bruce Bemer and said he would have to serve five years of probation and register as a sex offender after his time behind bars. A jury found the 65-year-old Glastonbury resident guilty in April of several counts of patronizing victims of human trafficking.
Bemer, who owns the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack and other companies, was expected to post a newly imposed $750,000 bond that would allow him to remain free while he appeals his convictions. He had been free on $500,000 bail since his arrest in March 2017.
Prosecutor Sharmese Hodge sought a 25-year sentence for Bemer, whose lawyer, Anthony Spinella, said he should only get probation.
Bemer admitted he patronized prostitutes but denied any role in human trafficking.
In his appeal, his lawyers plan to argue that the judge gave flawed instructions to the jury about the legal definition of coercion when explaining the charges of patronizing victims of human trafficking.
Police said they identified at least 15 victims of the trafficking ring but believe there could be dozens more dating back to the 1990s.
Two other men were convicted in the case. One, Robert King, of Danbury, found some of the victims at drug rehab centers, police said. According to arrest warrants, he would give them drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and take them to Bemer and other men for sex acts so they could earn money to pay him back for the drugs.
King, 53, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit human trafficking and is expected to be sentenced to 4½ years in prison. Another defendant, William Trefzger, 74, of Westport, pleaded guilty to patronizing a trafficked person and was sentenced to a year in prison.
Bemer also is being sued by several men who say they were victims of the trafficking. The lawsuits say the men suffer a variety of psychological ailments including post-traumatic stress disorder and repeated flashbacks.