ELLINGTON, CT (WFSB/CNN) – A business owner and vice president of a volunteer ambulance corps in Connecticut faces child sex trafficking charges after an undercover sting exposed his solicitations and “sex dungeon.”
Simon Hessler owned a hotel in Manchester, outside Hartford, and another business in nearby Vernon.
It was at that second business that police said they found whips, chains, handcuffs and a cage.
He was busted after allegedly attempting to purchase a preteen girl for sex at his hotel. Authorities said he had agreed to pay $500 for “limitless sex” with a sixth-grade girl.
A warrant stated that he said he wanted to bring the girl to his “slave quarters,” and he told an undercover detective that he had been “training” young sex slaves for two decades.
Hessler is a 10-year veteran of the Ellington Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the group’s vice president.
Its president, Peter Haney, said Hessler’s background check was clean, and the only time red flags were raised was a year ago, when a communication he had with a homeless woman was brought to his attention.
Haney said Hessler and the woman discussed exchanging work for a place to stay at his hotel.
He added that Hessler was known to offer fire victims the same type of assistance, so he didn’t think anything of it, and no official complaint was made to him.
But parents who also saw screenshots of Hessler’s Facebook interaction said Hessler requested a full body shot of the woman, and told her the type of work would be at her discretion.
Haney confirmed several high schoolers make up a youth group at the ambulance corps, and Hessler was involved in administrative duties, including taking their ID photos.
Haney said the interactions were always with another adult present and always professional, but the knowledge Hessler was around children was enough for at least one mother to bring her concerns to the state police and school superintendent in February.
It’s unclear if that tip prompted police to investigate Hessler, but court documents show that state police started their undercover investigation that month.