TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Edison, N.J., man who used violence and threats of violence to enslave women in a high-priced prostitution ring based in New Jersey pleaded guilty today to a human trafficking charge. The guilty plea – one of the first in New Jersey under the state’s human trafficking statute – stems from an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Edison Police Department.
Percival R. Williams, 36, of Edison, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and promoting prostitution before Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to 10 years in state prison on the conspiracy charge, and a concurrent sentence of four years in state prison for promoting prostitution. In pleading guilty, Williams admitted that he conspired with others to lure women to New Jersey, where he forced them into a life of prostitution by threats of violence.
Deputy Attorney General Annmarie Taggart, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jacqueline Weyand took the guilty plea.
“Williams used deception, violence and fear to strip vulnerable young women of their freedom and enslave them in a life of prostitution,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This guilty plea will keep him behind bars, where he cannot harm any more women. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and other organizations to shine a spotlight on this form of modern-day slavery, rescue its victims and bring traffickers to justice using New Jersey’s tough criminal statute.”
“Through stepped-up investigations, a public awareness campaign and law enforcement training, we are targeting this heinous crime of human trafficking,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge any victims, or anyone with information about human trafficking, to contact us confidentially. We are prepared to prosecute sex traffickers aggressively and provide their victims with the assistance and services they need to take back their lives.”
The New Jersey Human Trafficking Task Force has launched a hotline for people to confidentially report suspected human trafficking: 1-855-END-NJ-HT (1-855-363-6548). It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by detectives in the Human Trafficking Unit in the Division of Criminal Justice.
Williams was indicted on Nov. 12, 2013 with his girlfriend, Asha Chanell Vaughn, 24. Vaughn pleaded guilty today before Judge Ferencz to promoting prostitution. The state will recommend that she be sentenced to a term of probation. Williams was arrested in Dallas, Texas, on Feb. 26, 2013, 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 two days later at Williams’ home.
Judge Ferencz scheduled Williams to be sentenced on April 7, and Vaughn, on April 2.
The state’s investigation revealed 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 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 owned high-performance cars, including two Maseratis and a Porsche, and he posed as a music producer. Once he brought the women to New Jersey, he forced them to prostitute themselves by acts of violence or threats of violence.
Investigators learned that Williams abducted one woman from Cleveland, Ohio. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade her to move to New York with him, he laced her drink with a narcotic that caused her to pass out. While she was unconscious, he drove her to New Jersey against her will, where he attempted to force her to work as a prostitute.
Williams 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 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. The investigation revealed that, if the women did not earn enough, Williams beat them. He also threatened their family members to get them to comply and prevent them from fleeing.
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, Detectives Naike Kudlick, Eric Barnes, Noelle Holl, Terry Shaw and Shawn Gorlin, and Analyst Alison C. Callery. 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. 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.