September 24, 2023

State investigators accuse a Meadville woman of taking advantage of four teenage girls, including her own daughter and two former foster children, by putting them to work at a vehicle detailing business in Mifflin County and not paying them for their labor.
Two of the girls were forced to work at the business, where they slept on an air mattress and where their movements were restricted, investigators charge in a criminal complaint filed on Tuesday.
Ellen M. Cummings, 44, whose address was listed in court documents as the 15500 block of Rogers Ferry Road in Crawford County, was in the Mifflin County Prison Thursday on $500,000 bond. She was arraigned in Mifflin County Wednesday on 20 criminal charges, including felony counts of involuntary servitude, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, trafficking in individuals and nonpayment of wages.
Investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations accuse Cummings of employing — but not paying — the teenage girls between February 2019 and October 2020 at a business she owned. The business, TipTop Resources, also known as Go2Detailing, was located in Lewistown Borough, southeast of State College and a little more than 200 miles southeast of Meadville.
Cummings owned the business with her boyfriend, who is now deceased, authorities wrote in case documents.
The four female victims in the case were 15, 16, 17, and 18 at the time, according to state police.
“The details of this case are disturbing. These individuals took advantage of vulnerable young people, some of which were under their care as foster parents, for the profit of their business,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office worked on the investigation with state police, stated in a news release his office issued following Cummings’ arraignment.
State police became involved in the investigation in September 2021, when an officer with the Lewistown Police Department passed along allegations of labor trafficking and involuntary servitude at the auto detailing business.
A girl who was 17 at the time reported being forced to work at the business without being paid and being forced by Cummings and her boyfriend to stay at the business, according to information in the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint against Cummings.
The girl told investigators she met the son of Cummings in Crawford County and within a few days moved with him to Lewistown to work at the detailing business. She said she detailed cars and did mechanical and office work but did not receive any financial compensation, although Cummings paid her cell phone bill on at least one occasion, according to information in the affidavit.
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The girl also stated that she felt “controlled and manipulated while living there,” investigators wrote in the affidavit. She said food was locked in cabinets and she was only able to have meals at specific times; cameras were everywhere and her movements were watched; her cellphone was taken from her to prevent her from contacting family; and she could only leave with Cummings, Cummings’ boyfriend or Cummings’ son, according to the affidavit.
Investigators also wrote that the girl told them she became pregnant while living at the detailing business, and she stated in emails to a friend that she was not allowed to see a doctor.
Investigators said they learned that there were two female foster children that Cummings used or attempted to use to work at the business. Cummings had told investigators she was a licensed foster parent from Allegheny County, according to the affidavit.
One of the foster children said she was at the business and was directed by Cummings to wash cars. She said she was only in Lewistown for about a week, and during that time she had to sleep on a floor on air mattresses with Cummings’ children, authorities wrote in the affidavit.
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The girl told investigators she knew her rights as a foster child and refused to work at the business. As a result, Cummings and her boyfriend sent the girl back to Meadville, according to the affidavit. She also told police that there were cameras everywhere, she was only allowed to eat during mealtime and was only allowed to leave with Cummings or her boyfriend.
The other foster child told investigators that Allegheny County Children and Youth Services had placed her in the care of Cummings, and that she initially lived with Cummings in Meadville before they were in Lewistown. She said she agreed to work at the business but never received a paycheck, cash, or other compensation for her work, according to the affidavit.
The girl told investigators that she and others slept in one room with an air mattress.
Investigators also spoke with Cummings’ daughter, who said she was still owed money for the work she did at the detailing business. She also said she didn’t believe the other three girls were ever paid any money for working, according to the affidavit.
The daughter described cameras watching her and being tracked by Cummings, investigators wrote.
As part of the Lewistown Police Department’s initial investigation, an officer went to the business to speak to Cummings. Footage from the officer’s body camera showed mattresses on the floor in a back room for sleeping, the bathroom was in the same room as a washing machine and stove, and the shower appeared to be a floor pan on blocks squeezed into a corner, investigators wrote in the affidavit.
The Lewistown officer noted during the visit that locks were on the refrigerator and freezer, according to the affidavit.
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General is prosecuting the case against Cummings. She is scheduled to appear in court for her preliminary hearing in Mifflin County on Sept. 30, according to the online docket.
Contact Tim Hahn at Follow him on Twitter @ETNhahn.


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