Three men, two from Jersey City, pleaded guilty to human trafficking charges that include forcing a 14-year-old girl to have sex with up to 10 men a day, Acting Attorney General Robert Lougy announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Michael McLeod (the “boss” of the prostitution ring, 25, David Powell, Jr., 29, both of Jersey City, and Demetrius Hayward, 20, of Summerville, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to separate, but related, human trafficking charges in front of Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez:
Michael A. McLeod – Pleaded guilty to first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking and second-degree facilitation of human trafficking. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to 18 years in state prison, including four years of parole ineligibility.
David Powell Jr. – Pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to facilitate human trafficking. He faces a recommended sentence of six years in state prison.
Demetrius James Hayward – Pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to facilitate human trafficking. He faces a recommended sentence of five years in state prison.
All three men are scheduled to be sentenced on May 13.
Back in October, McLeod, Powell, Hayward, and Tyree Jeter, 27, of Jersey City, were indicted by a state grand jury.
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 case starkly illustrates how human traffickers separate their victims from any benevolent support and trap them in a wretched life of sexual slavery,” Lougy said in a statement.
“McLeod was a brutal bully who controlled his teenage victims with fear and violence. We have put him behind bars where he can’t harm any other vulnerable young women.”