Three Jersey City men were among four indicted on human trafficking and prostitution charges, allegedly forcing a 14-year-old girl to have sex with up to 10 men a day as part of a prostitution ring being operated in and around Hudson County, Acting Attorney General John Jay Hoffman announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Michael A. McLeod, 24, David Powell, Jr., 29, Tyree D. Jeter, 27, all of Jersey City, as well as Demetrius James Hayward 20, of Summerville, South Carolina were all indicted with a multitude of first, second and third degree crimes (they were first arrested on May 11).
The Division of Criminal Justice obtained an indictment charging the aforementioned men with first degree conspiracy, two counts of first degree human trafficking, first degree promoting prostitution of a minor, two counts of first and second degree endangering the welfare of a child, first degree promoting organized street crime, second degree facilitating human trafficking and two counts of promoting third degree promoting prostitution.
McLeod, the alleged “boss” of the scheme, is also charged with second degree sexual assault, third degree endangering the welfare of a child and fourth degree criminal sexual contact.
The investigation began in April when the FBI Task Force received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that photos of the 14-year-old victim, who was a runaway from South Jersey, were being used in ads for a “female escort” on backpage.com, the state Attorney General’s Office revealed.
McLeod allegedly used violence or the threat of violence to control the two victims who were prostituted by the defendants: the 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman, officials said.
The human trafficking and first-degree prostitution charges pertain to the defendants’ conduct against the 14-year-old, while McLeod is also charged with aggravated assault for allegedly holding a gun to the head of the 18-year-old and threatening to kill her when he accused her of disrespecting him, authorities said.
Other times, he allegedly beat and kicked her. Furthermore, the defendants allegedly put the victims up at each hotel for four or five days at a time, and the victims were then required to prostitute themselves under the control of McLeod and his assistants, according to court documents.
Furthermore, each victim allegedly had sex with up to 10 customers a day, making up to $800, all of which McLeod collected.
“This is a heartbreaking case that fits a classic pattern of human trafficking,” Hoffman said in a statement. “We allege that these defendants trapped a vulnerable 14-year-old girl in a wretched life of sexual slavery where she had to perform sex acts with up to 10 men a day.”
“No child would submit to such horrific conditions unless she faced a threat of violence, which in this case allegedly was conveyed by the ring’s boss in the form of brutal attacks on a second victim.”
An undercover detective from the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force telephoned the number in a backpage.com ad containing photos of the missing runaway and arranged a “date” for April 9 at a motel room in Secaucus, officials said.
When the detective went to the motel, he was met by the 14-year-old girl as well as the 18-year-old victim, who was assigned to keep track of her. After the 14-year-old girl offered the detective sex for money, officers entered the motel room and took custody of the two teenagers, authorities said.
Further investigation revealed McLeod’s alleged status as “pimp” or “boss” as well as the roles of the other men, with Powell and Jeter allegedly renting hotel rooms in their names for the girls. Jeter allegedly would share their hotel room, waiting outside as security while the girls were working, officials said.
Powell also allegedly would act as a “body guard” for the girls, waiting outside while they were with customers. McLeod allegedly relied on Jeter, Powell and Hayward to control the girls when he was not around and ensure they were not free to leave, court documents state.
Hayward allegedly transported the girls between hotels, while Hayward, Powell and Jeter also allegedly brought food to the girls or took them out to eat, because McLeod did not let them have any money, authorities said.
Additionally, McLeod allegedly collected all of the money from the girls. He allegedly gave Hayward, Powell and Jeter a small percentage of the money, but kept most of it for himself.
The defendants are being held in the Hudson County Jail with bail set at $400,000.
The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Finally, fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.