HAZLE TWP. — A woman wanted for two years on allegations that she had sex with an underage boy and trafficked him to others is now behind bars.
Joleen Marie Gambardella, 36, of Hazle Township, has been captured and was arraigned Friday. She is being held in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await further proceedings.
Court documents allege a pattern of abuse that lasted for years and took place in at least three states.
A minor told state police that in 2013, when he was 15, he moved from Hazle Township to Ohio to live with Gambardella. About two months after the move, he and Gambardella were sitting on the couch when she kissed him on the mouth.
The youth claimed he and Gambardella ingested marijuana and other prescription drugs.
Despite the fact that Gambardella had a girlfriend at the time, she began engaging in a range of daily sexual activities with the youth, often multiple times each day, as well as continuing to take prescription drugs together.
State police said Gambardella became pregnant and had an abortion at a family planning center in Southfield, Mich., in July 2014.
Despite the abortion, Gambardella maintained sexual relations with the teen, which continued when they relocated to Hazle Township during the summer of 2015.
While living in the Hazleton area, state police allege Gambardella used heroin and introduced the drug to the boy, then tried to prostitute him to earn money for more of the drug.
State police said the youth reported that Gambardella took a picture of his genitals and posted the photo on the internet site Craigslist, telling him she wanted him to perform sex acts for money so they could buy heroin.
When an older man arrived at her house in response to the advertisement, the minor victim couldn’t go through with Gambardella’s plan, the complaint says.
Investigation into the incidents began in October 2015. In January 2016, state police obtained an arrest warrant for Gambardella charging her with promoting prostitution of a minor, corruption of minors, criminal use of a communication facility, endangering the welfare of children and a felony sex charge.
When the arrest warrant was issued, Gambardella fled the area. She was featured on the CrimeStoppers website later that year.
It was not immediately clear where she was taken into custody. Gambardella was arraigned by District Judge Michael Dotzel in Wilkes-Barre Township and jailed for lack of $10,000 bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for May 23.