WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Two Connecticut men who have vacationed in the Ludlow area for years have been charged under Vermont’s rarely used slave-trafficking statutes for allegedly luring a local boy into “a life of prostitution.”
The alleged victim, who is now 25, approached Vermont State Police earlier this month and said he realized that beginning at age 12 he had been groomed to participate in an escalating series of sex acts by the men who he said gave him a steady stream of gifts and money in exchange for his participation.
Brett Bartolotta, 42, and his friend Frank Meyer, 39, both pleaded innocent Thursday to felony counts of sexual assault on a minor and slave trafficking. The men, who both face up to life in prison if convicted, were jailed on $50,000 and $100,000 bail respectively.
The alleged victim told investigators that when he was a teenager Bartolotta had agreed to sell him a dirt bike on installment payments. He said he made weekly payments to Bartolotta when he was in Vermont.
Detective Daniel Trottier wrote in an affidavit that Bartolotta began telling the boy about sexual ways in which the boy could earn money, and began a series of sexual encounters that allegedly escalated to bondage themes and eventually involved his friend Meyer.
Prosecutors said Thursday that even though the alleged victim is now an adult and voluntarily participated in the activities in later years, it did not change the criminal nature of the past acts involving an underage boy.
The alleged victim showed Vermont State Police more than 2,000 Facebook messages purportedly sent between himself and Bartolotta and Meyer which investigators said corroborated the sexual nature of their relationship.
Police said they set up a sting operation last week in which the alleged victim wore a wire in a restaurant in Ludlow and engaged Meyer in a conversation about the timeline of the relationship.
Trottier wrote that Meyer repeatedly expressed nervousness about being overheard by other patrons given the subject matter of the conversation. The detective said he appeared to acknowledge and confirm many of the places and times that the victim mentioned.
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