|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Edison, N.J., man who allegedly used violence and threats of violence to enslave women in a high-priced prostitution ring based in New Jersey was indicted today by a state grand jury on first-degree charges of human trafficking, kidnapping and racketeering. The charges stem from an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Edison Police Department.
The alleged pimp, Percival R. Williams, 36, of Edison, also is charged with conspiring with his girlfriend to bring an estimated $500,000 worth of stolen diamonds into New Jersey. The girlfriend, Asha Chanell Vaughn, 24 – who was indicted with him on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, receiving stolen property and promoting prostitution – allegedly stole the uncut diamonds on April 17, 2012 from a man’s room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Manhattan, where she solicited the man as a client for prostitution. Williams was arrested in Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 26, by the U.S. Marshals Service, on a warrant obtained by the Human Trafficking Unit of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Vaughn was arrested on Feb. 28 at Williams’ home.
“Williams allegedly forced women into a life where they had to prostitute themselves or be beaten,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Through isolation and fear, he enslaved vulnerable women from as far away as Ohio in his prostitution ring. Victims of human trafficking feel helpless to defend themselves, so we are making it a priority in New Jersey to rescue them and bring traffickers like Williams to justice.”
“We understand that victims of human trafficking may fear retaliation by the traffickers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We want to assure all victims in New Jersey that we will protect them from their traffickers at all cost, and that we will fully utilize our resources to put their oppressors behind bars. We urge any victims, or anyone with information about human trafficking, to contact us confidentially.”
The New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force has launched a hotline for people to confidentially report suspected human trafficking in New Jersey. The new hotline – 1-855-END-NJ-HT (1-855-363-6548) – is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by detectives in the Human Trafficking Unit within the Division of Criminal Justice.
Williams is charged in the indictment with human trafficking (1st degree), kidnapping (1st degree), racketeering (1st degree), conspiracy (2nd degree), money laundering (2nd degree), receiving stolen property (2nd degree), promoting organized street crime (2nd degree), promoting prostitution (3rd degree), failure to file a state income tax return (3rd degree), and failure to pay state income tax (3rd degree). Vaughn is charged with him in the counts of racketeering (1st degree), conspiracy (2nd degree), receiving stolen property (2nd degree) and promoting prostitution (3rd degree).
It is alleged that Williams, who uses the street names “Knowledge” and “Don Cholo,” is a pimp who found young women in various locations, including the Cleveland, Ohio area. He allegedly brought them to New Jersey, either against their will or by enticing them with promises of a relationship or better life, in order to enslave them in prostitution. He owns high-performance cars, including two Maseratis and a Porsche, and poses as a music producer. He allegedly forced women to prostitute themselves by acts of violence or threats of violence.
In connection with the kidnapping charge, it is alleged that Williams abducted a woman from Cleveland, Ohio. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade her to move to New York with him, he allegedly laced her drink with a narcotic that caused her to pass out. While she was unconscious, he allegedly drove her to New Jersey against her will, where he attempted to force her to work as a prostitute.
Williams allegedly kept the women he prostituted at his house or in nearby hotels, and would solicit clients for the women by placing ads on the website Backpage.com, including naked photos and videos of the women. Williams also allegedly escorted or sent the women to various luxury hotels to solicit clients, including hotels in Manhattan, Atlantic City and Las Vegas. He demanded that the women charge high hourly rates for sex acts, typically $500 to $1,000, and turn all proceeds over to him. If they did not earn enough, Williams allegedly beat them. He also allegedly threatened their family members to get them to comply and prevent them from fleeing.
The tax charges are based on Williams’ alleged failure to file a state tax return or pay state taxes for calendar years 2008 through 2012.
Deputy Attorney General Russell J. Curley presented the case to the state grand jury. The investigation was conducted and coordinated for the Division of Criminal Justice by Deputy Attorney General Curley, Lt. Lisa Shea, Sgt. Keith Stopko, and Detectives Naike Kudlick, Eric Barnes, Noelle Holl, Terry Shaw and Shawn Gorlin. They worked cooperatively with members of the Edison Police Department Special Operations Group, including Sgt. Michael Mintchwarner, Sgt. Frank Todd, Detective Michael Carullo, Detective Brian Maurath and Detective Jeff Abrams. They worked with the New York City Police Department in connection with the stolen diamonds. The New Jersey State Police TEAMS Unit provided valuable assistance in the execution of warrants. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for their dedicated efforts to successfully apprehend Williams.
Williams has been held since his arrest in the Middlesex County Jail with bail set at $1 million. Vaughn is free on $50,000 bail.
First-degree human trafficking carries a sentence of 20 years to life in state prison and a fine of up to $750,000, while first-degree kidnapping carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. First-degree racketeering carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, and third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Middlesex County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.