Feds: NY couple sexually exploited minors

2 charged in abduction of Amish girls
2 charged in abduction of Amish girls

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Story highlights

  • Two Amish girls were kidnapped -- and later found -- in upstate New York last month
  • Nicole Vaisey and Stephen Howells II were arrested
  • Prosecutors say the couple conspired to "sexually exploit" the girls and a third victim
  • The five-count indictment includes one child pornography charge against Howells
A couple accused of kidnapping of two Amish girls in upstate New York last month was indicted on federal sex exploitation charges Thursday.
Nicole Vaisey, 25, and boyfriend Stephen Howells II, 39, were named in a five-count indictment in Syracuse.
The charges included conspiracy to sexually exploit the two Amish girls along with a third female minor, according to a statement released by U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian.
Howells also was charged with possession of child pornography.
The pair had previously been charged with the kidnapping of the two Amish girls -- ages 6 and 12 -- about 50 miles from the Canadian border on August 13.
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"This indictment charges Howells and Vaisey with enticing and coercing children to engage in sexual conduct and making a video recording of it," Hartunian said in a statement.
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Vaisey and Howells both face a maximum of 30 years in prison on the sexual exploitation charges against children. Howells faces a maximum of 20 years on the child pornography charge. If convicted, both could be fined up to $250,000 on each count.
The pair also faces criminal court charges of first-degree kidnapping after luring the young Amish girls into a car with a puppy, authorities in New York's St. Lawrence County said.
Details about the abduction in Oswegatchie emerged during a preliminary hearing in St. Lawrence County in August. Detective Sgt. Brooks Bigwarfe detailed the couples' alleged plan and kidnapping of the girls, as related to him by Vaisey.
Vaisey told investigators that she and Howells were on a "shopping trip" for "slaves" when they allegedly kidnapped the girls.
"They had been planning this for several weeks," Bigwarfe said.
The girls were picked up at a vegetable stand outside a family farm.
Howells and Vaisey pulled up to the stand in a location where they couldn't be seen, and waited for the girls to approach the car, Bigwarfe said. Howells allegedly scouted out the stand the previous week.
Howells asked the girls whether they wanted to pet the dog, a Doberman pinscher-golden retriever mix named Kaleidoscope, police said. When the older child grew suspicious, Bigwarfe said, Howells pushed the girls into the back of the car.
"When he started forcing them into the vehicle, they were both screaming and yelling," Bigwarfe said.
The girls were held captive for nearly 24 hours, during which they were handcuffed together, shackled to a bed and sexually abused, according to the sheriff's department.
With widening media coverage, a large police response in the area and an Amber Alert, the couple began to worry and decided it was too risky to keep the girls, he said.
Howells abandoned the two girls in an isolated area 12 miles from where they were being held, Bigwarfe said.
Attorneys for Vaisey and Howell did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
After her August arrest, Vaisey's attorney, Bradford Riendeau, told CNN that his client was allegedly in a master-slave relationship with Howells and that she was not the mastermind of the planned kidnapping.