Detectives: Schwager solicited prostitute who tried to extort him over video
WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County attorney who had been serving as president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association was charged with soliciting a prostitute who, in turn, threatened to post a video of their sexual encounter if she didn’t receive more cash, according to court records filed Tuesday.
County detectives charged David Eric Schwager, 58, of Kingston, with patronizing a prostitute; and charged Emily Ann Merth, 25, with promoting prostitution, theft by extortion and sexual extortion. The charges were filed with District Judge Rick Cronauer in Wilkes-Barre.
Schwager resigned his position as PBA president on Tuesday after the charges were filed.
Merth has a 2019 prostitution conviction in Lehigh County and is currently facing charges of burglary, robbery, theft, simple assault and criminal conspiracy in York County.
Charges filed in York County say Merth was part of a scheme where a man was lured to a motel under the premise he was meeting a prostitute but instead was assaulted and robbed.
Merth is currently jailed at the Lehigh County Prison.
Frank Nocito, an attorney representing Schwager, declined comment on Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaints:
Schwager contacted county detectives on Dec. 30, 2019 saying he was the victim of an extortion scheme by a woman, identified as Merth, whom he met at 237-1/2 Carey Ave. in Wilkes-Barre.
Schwager claimed he responded to an advertisement for a female escort and was directed to the Carey Avenue address. The advertisement stated the woman accepted payment by cash or PayPal, was available 24/7 and indicated she was in the Wilkes-Barre area, also highlighting that she had no tattoos or piercings.
Schwager told detectives he sent a text message to the number listed on the advertisement. More text messages followed, discussing service prices and exchanging payment for sex, the complaints say.
Schwager claimed he arrived at the Carey Avenue residence that afternoon and learned the woman could not meet him because her landlord was home. They arranged to meet later on Dec. 30.
When Schwager returned to the address, he told detectives he was directed to a neighboring residence, where he said a completely naked Merth opened the door. Schwager claimed Merth was African American and not the same woman who appeared in the advertisement, the complaints say.
Merth asked Schwager if he was a “cop,” and Schwager asked Merth if she was a police officer. Both denied being law enforcement.
After Schwager entered the residence, cash was exchanged and the pair began to engage in sexual activity, an affidavit states.
During the sexual encounter, Schwager told detectives he noticed Merth recording their acts with a mobile device, the complaints say.
Schwager asked Merth what she was doing and she replied she also records pornography and sells the videos for money. Schwager told the woman he wanted no part of being recorded and Merth refused to stop, saying she would only record audio of their sexual encounter, according to the complaints.
Schwager told detectives he got dressed and left.
A short time after leaving, Schwager claimed he received a text message from Merth advising if he didn’t pay her $1,000, she would post the video “everywhere,” the complaints say.
Schwager told Merth to stop threatening to release the video and she lowered her demand to $700. Schwager made arrangements to drive to the residence to bring Merth the money.
As Schwager returned to the residence, detectives set up surveillance of the home and allegedly witnessed Merth exit the home and approach Schwager’s vehicle.
When detectives approached Merth, she ran away but was arrested after a brief foot chase.
Merth told detectives during an interview she created the escort advertisement and used her cell phone to communicate with clients. She admitted to making arrangements with Schwager to engage in sexual activity for money and using her cell phone to record their sexual act, the complaints say.
Merth allegedly claimed after Schwager left the residence, she used his number to find out his full name and business address and sent a text message to extort more money from Schwager by threatening to release the video of their sexual encounter.
Detectives said the video involving Schwager was located on Merth’s cell phone.
Preliminary hearing dates have not been scheduled.
County, PBA response
Schwager works as a Luzerne County assistant solicitor. The administration placed him on administrative leave without pay Tuesday, according to an email sent to county council.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association released a statement Tuesday evening regarding the charges.
“Earlier today, our leadership team was notified that a misdemeanor charge was filed against the 2020-21 president, David Schwager. He has resigned,” Pennsylvania Bar Association Executive Director Barry M. Simpson wrote.
“While the charge is troubling, every person accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty, and we have confidence in the operation of our justice system,” Simpson added.
PBA 2020-21 President-elect Kathleen D. Wilkinson has automatically become the president, he added.
Times Leader staffers Jennifer Learn-Andes and Roger DuPuis contributed to this report.