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 was sentenced to prison today under New Jersey’s new human trafficking law.
Percival R. Williams, 36, of Edison, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County. Williams pleaded guilty on Feb. 10 to charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and promoting prostitution. His guilty plea was one of the first under the state’s new human trafficking statute, which took effect on July 1, 2013. The charges stemmed from an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Edison Police Department. 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 prosecuted Williams and handled the sentencing.
“Williams lured vulnerable young women with promises of a glamorous life, only to trap them in a hell of prostitution, beatings and fear,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We’ll continue to use New Jersey’s strong law against human trafficking to protect women and lock up traffickers like Williams.”
“We need victims and the public to come forward and tell us where human trafficking is occurring,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Too many victims are lost in the shadows, struggling to overcome fear and shame. We want them to know that we will protect them and deliver them from the criminals who have taken away their freedom.”
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 on Feb. 10 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.
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.