Hearings set for November for 2 men charged in alleged prostitution ring

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PITTSFIELD — Hearings are scheduled for November for two men accused of trafficking women for prostitution, but attorneys for the men plan to file motions to suppress evidence and dismiss charges in those cases.

Randy Lambach, 46, of Becket, and Joseph Van Wert, 66, of Pittsfield, each has entered not guilty pleas to multiple charges connected to the operation and use of a reputed prostitution ring over a three-year period, beginning in November 2014.

During a hearing in Berkshire Superior Court on Wednesday, attorneys Colin Keefe and Joshua Hochberg, representing Van Wert and Lambach, respectively, each stated their intention to file their motions by mid-October.

The specific pieces of evidence the attorneys are hoping to suppress were not discussed at the hearing.

Judge Daniel Ford set a date of Nov. 14 for hearings on those motions, as well as a final pretrial conference date of Feb. 19, which would tentatively place the cases on the March trial list. Those cases likely will be tried separately.

The investigation began in spring 2017, after police began receiving calls and complaints regarding apparent increases in prostitution throughout the city.

Many of the women who allegedly were involved told police they had been recruited by a man named Randy, who would seek out women with a drug addiction, photograph them and post advertisements online, seeking clients for sexual services, police were told.

Police also began receiving reports of suspected prostitution from a North Street senior living facility, where Randy had driven at least five women to and from Van Wert's third-floor apartment.

Van Wert allegedly paid for sex with the women, and was paid by Lambach in cash and drugs for use of his apartment.

Both men were arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court in February.

Lambach has pleaded not guilty to nine counts of trafficking a person for sexual servitude, seven counts of deriving support from prostitution and one count each of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual servitude, paying for sexual conduct and intimidation of a witness. He allegedly trafficked nine women over a three-year period.

Van Wert pleaded not guilty to five counts of paying for sexual conduct and one count each of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual servitude and maintaining a house of prostitution.

He is due back in court Aug. 21 for a bail hearing. He and Lambach have been held in custody since their arrests in mid-November. Lambach is being held on $5,000 bail; Van Wert's bail is $7,500.

Also during Wednesday's hearing, Lambach was notified about a potential conflict with his attorney. Hochberg had previously represented an alleged victim and potential witness in the case, and the judge gave Lambach the option of asking for a new attorney.

Lambach said he understood the situation and elected to keep Hochberg as his legal counsel.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.

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