|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a state correction officer from Burlington County pleaded guilty today to impersonating a law enforcement officer to coerce prostitutes into having sex with him.
Juan R. Stevens, 51, of Burlington Township, a suspended senior correction officer, pleaded guilty to a charge of official misconduct before Superior Court Judge Jeanne T. Covert in Burlington County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility. He must forfeit his state job and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Stevens is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 3.
Deputy Attorneys General Victor R. Salgado and Valerie R. Butler prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The case was investigated by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice, with assistance from the Department of Corrections, the Mansfield Police Department, and the Westampton Police Department.
In pleading guilty, Stevens admitted that he used equipment issued to him as a correction officer, including his badge, to impersonate a law enforcement officer and coerce prostitutes into having sex with him free of charge or for a reduced charge. The state investigation revealed that between May 2011 and July 2012, Stevens impersonated a law enforcement officer in order to coerce four women into having sex at hotels or motels in Burlington County. In each case, he allegedly identified himself as a law enforcement officer and displayed what appeared to be a law enforcement badge so the victim feared she would be arrested. Stevens was arrested in March by the State Police in connection with incidents involving three prostitutes who said they were coerced into having sex with him free of charge or at a discount. After his arrest, a DNA match resulted in him being charged with using similar tactics to coerce a fourth woman into having sex in May 2011 at a motel in Mansfield. That victim alerted police and DNA evidence was taken. It was the first time charges were filed as a result of a new state law, signed by Governor Christie, that requires DNA sampling of all persons arrested for violent crimes.
“Stevens betrayed the honor of his badge by using it to commit these despicable crimes,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “His conduct was utterly corrupt and repugnant. All sworn officers should be held to a high standard, and those who use their authority or trappings of authority to commit crimes will face stern justice.”
“By his conduct, Stevens violated the public trust and used his badge to harm, rather than protect, the public,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “The vast majority of correction officers work with integrity and courage to serve the public in a very difficult job, and we can restore confidence by aggressively prosecuting the few who don’t.”
“Misusing your official position and threatening arrest to bully prostitutes into giving you sexual favors is a repulsive criminal act. Such behavior must be met with a firm response, as was the case with Mr. Stevens,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This case highlights the important work of our Official Corruption Unit and their partners.”
Detectives Erick Goncalves and Anthony Carugno investigated the case for the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit. Detective Daniel Ehnstrom of the Mansfield Police Department investigated the sexual assault in Mansfield with the State Police. The investigation was conducted with assistance from the Department of Corrections Special Investigations Division and the Westampton Police Department.
After his initial arrest by the State Police on March 21, Stevens was suspended without pay from his job at the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ Central Reception and Assignment Facility in Trenton.
The investigation revealed that Stevens, who used the name “Rick” or “Rich,” telephoned women who advertised their services online as adult escorts and arranged for sexual encounters. Stevens initially was identified in connection with an incident on Feb. 24, 2012, at a hotel in Westampton. Stevens met the victim at the hotel, as arranged by phone, and agreed to pay $125 for 30 minutes of sex. Instead, however, he flashed a police-style badge, identified himself as a law enforcement officer, and led her to believe he was conducting a prostitution sting. He uttered the command “stand down” into a cell phone, which appeared to have a walkie-talkie feature. He then began to fondle the woman, who believed she was about to be arrested, telling her they could work it out. Stevens had sexual intercourse with the woman and left without paying her. That incident was reported to the Westampton Police Department.
Further investigation identified two additional prostitutes who were similarly coerced into either performing oral sex on Stevens or having sexual intercourse with him under threat of arrest at motels in Burlington County:
In January 2012, Stevens telephoned an “adult escort” and requested that she meet him at a motel in Maple Shade where he would pay for sex. Upon entering the motel room, Stevens produced a badge and identified himself as a police officer. He demanded to see the woman’s identification, which he examined. He requested oral sex from the woman, who reported that she complied because she feared arrest and knew that Stevens knew her home address from her identification. He directed her to meet him two more times in February and March of 2012, when he again coerced her into performing oral sex on him free of charge.
In July 2012, Stevens telephoned a woman who advertised her services as an adult escort and agreed to meet her at a motel in Maple Shade. Stevens agreed to pay $160 for sexual intercourse, but in the motel room, he claimed to be a police officer and demanded a discounted price. The woman had sex with him, fearing arrest, and he paid her $100.
The DNA match resulted in Stevens being re-arrested on April 25 on charges related to the incident involving the fourth woman at a motel in Mansfield on May 23, 2011. The investigation revealed that Stevens approached the victim outside the motel, where she was living. He was wearing a blue uniform and stated he was a police officer who was sent to talk to her about prostitution and drug activity at the motel. He asked if he could enter her room. Upon entering the room, he displayed a police-type badge and ordered her to take her clothes off. The woman reported that she feared Stevens, so she engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse without a condom. Stevens threw $15 at her and left the motel.