ALBANY, New York — A couple accused of kidnapping and sexually abusing two young Amish sisters in August are facing additional federal charges involving more child victims, prosecutors said Wednesday.
The case against Stephen Howells and Nicole Vaisey now involves six victims, U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said. Howells and Vaisey, who live in Hermon, had previously been charged with crimes against three children, including the Amish girls, who were held for a day and released.
The new 21-count indictment had not been filed as of early Wednesday evening, so details weren't available. But Hartunian said Howells and Vaisey are charged with sexually exploiting three children between September 2013 and August 2014 and Howells is additionally charged with six counts involving four children at other times.
Howells also is charged with five additional counts of possessing child pornography found on five hard drives, including images and videos of children under the age of 12.
Howells and Vaisey previously pleaded not guilty. Vaisey's lawyer, Bradford Riendeau, declined to comment Wednesday because he had not seen the superseding indictment. He has said Vaisey, 25, was controlled by Howells, 39, in a master-slave relationship. Howell's lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The 7- and 12-year-old Amish girls were abducted from their family farm stand in rural Oswegatchie, near the Canadian border.
The abduction touched off a massive search in the community of about 4,000 people, but authorities were hampered by a lack of photos of the girls. The Amish typically avoid modern technology, and the family had to work with an artist to produce a sketch of the older girl.
Authorities say the girls were shackled and sexually abused before being released the next day about 20 miles from home.
The original federal indictment said another young girl, now about 8 years old, also was sexually abused by the couple during the two-year span.
No information was initially available about the other three children.
The federal crimes Howells and Vaisey are accused of committing carry a range of prison terms upon conviction, including up to 30 years on the first count of conspiracy to sexually exploit children.
Howells and Vaisey initially were held on a state kidnapping charge following their arrests shortly after the Amish girls were released. St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain said Wednesday additional state charges are possible but she will let the federal case go forward first.
She said she is pleased federal authorities are "pursuing charges which provide greater penalties than those New York law affords."