|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that five people have been indicted by a state grand jury on first-degree charges of conspiracy, human trafficking and promoting prostitution of a minor for allegedly prostituting a 16-year-old girl they trafficked from New York to New Jersey as part of a prostitution ring they advertised on Backpage.com.
The following five defendants were charged Friday, April 10, in a 12-count indictment obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit, within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau:
- Ernestine Bowman, 31, of Orange, N.J.;
- Glen Bowman Sr., 40, of Newark, N.J., Ernestine’s husband;
- Jessica Renee Copeland, 26, of Newark, N.J.;
- Tokina P. Williams, 31, of Raleigh, N.C.; and
- Glen Bowman Jr., 20, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
The defendants allegedly conspired to traffic the 16-year-old girl from Brooklyn, N.Y., to northern New Jersey and make her work as a prostitute at motels in South Hackensack and Clifton. The charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the South Hackensack Police Department.
“These defendants cruelly exploited a runaway who was only 16, trapping her in a wretched life of prostitution,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “We charge that they ruthlessly did what human traffickers always do to turn an illicit profit, which is to target vulnerable victims, deprive them of any benevolent support, and conscript them into modern-day slavery.”
“We’re working with law enforcement throughout New Jersey to sweep these crimes out of the shadows, rescue victims, and bring human traffickers to justice,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “I commend the South Hackensack Police Department for infiltrating the sordid world of online sex trafficking and rescuing an underage girl in the process.”
“Our department has been committed to conducting these undercover operations to flush out the criminality of prostitution and narcotics in our motels,” said Chief Joseph Terraccino of the South Hackensack Police Department. “It is especially satisfying to know that this is the second incident of juvenile human trafficking that we have uncovered within the past year. Our agency remains committed to rescuing these victims from the underworld and arresting the predators who are responsible.”
Deputy Attorney General Brandy T. Malfitano presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit, within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Annmarie Taggart, Deputy Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorney General Lauren Scarpa Yfantis, Bureau Chief. The investigation was conducted for the Division of Criminal Justice by Detective Timothy Savage, Sgt. Noelle Holl, Lt. Lisa Cawley and the other detectives in the Human Trafficking Unit. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the South Hackensack Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Joseph Terraccino, for their investigation and referral. Capt. Robert Kaiser, Lt. Robert Chinchar and Detective James Donatello led the investigation for the South Hackensack Police Department.
The investigation began as an undercover operation by the South Hackensack Police Department targeting a prostitution ring that advertised on Backpage.com. Such rings typically offer “escort services” and display nude or semi-nude photos of young women. An undercover officer responded to an advertisement that included a photo of a very young-looking female with her breasts exposed. The officer phoned the number in the ad on Oct. 1, 2014, and a woman told him that he could have “full sex” for $160 cash at a motel on Route 46 in South Hackensack.
The undercover officer was directed to a room, where a teenage girl answered the door. She repeated that the price of “full sex” was $160 and accepted $160 cash from the undercover officer. He asked why the bathroom door was closed and learned there was a woman in the bathroom, who turned out to be Tokina Williams. The teenage girl invited Williams to come out and told her that the client had paid to have sex with both of them. At that time, backup officers entered and arrested Williams and the teenage girl. The teenage girl was determined to be a 16-year-old who was reported missing out of New York State. She was the young female whose breasts were exposed in the photo in the ad on Backpage.com.
Further investigation revealed that the five defendants allegedly conspired to lure the 16-year-old victim into a life of prostitution. She met Glen Bowman Jr., in Brooklyn, N.Y., several months earlier and he allegedly conspired with his father to traffic her to New Jersey to work in a prostitution ring that the father, Glen Sr., allegedly ran with his wife, Ernestine (Glen Jr.’s stepmother). Copeland, who went by the nickname “China White,” allegedly acted as boss or “bottom” over the prostitutes in the ring. It is alleged that both Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland threatened the 16-year-old victim with physical violence on at least one occasion if she did not follow their rules and perform to their expectations. The defendants allegedly drove the victim and others who worked as prostitutes to hotels and motels in South Hackensack, Clifton and other locations in northern New Jersey, where they serviced clients. At the end of the day, the defendants allegedly picked them up and collected the money they had been paid.
The 16-year-old victim generally was required to work from Monday through Friday as a prostitute and spent weekends at an apartment in the Bronx, N.Y. Williams allegedly was a prostitute who also was involved in supervising the underage girl and collecting her proceeds at the end of the day. Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland were arrested in August 2014 in New York on an indictment filed by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office charging them with sexually trafficking two adult women in New York and New Jersey in 2012 and 2013 as part of their alleged prostitution ring. After they were arrested, Ernestine Bowman allegedly took on a greater leadership role in the prostitution ring. She allegedly made hotel reservations, transported the 16-year-old victim to hotels, and supplied her with condoms and lingerie outfits to wear. Ernestine Bowman allegedly went to the hotels to collect the money earned by the victim and other prostitutes. The South Hackensack Police arrested her on the night of the undercover operation when she allegedly drove to the motel to pick up the 16-year-old victim.
Ernestine Bowman has been held in the Bergen County Jail since her arrest, with bail set at $200,000. Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland are in custody in New York City on the New York State charges, with their bails set at $200,000 and $20,000, respectively. Arrest warrants were issued for Williams and Glen Bowman Jr. as a result of the indictment returned Friday. They remain fugitives.
All five defendants are charged with the following offenses:
- Conspiracy (1st degree),
- Human Trafficking (1st degree),
- Promoting Prostitution of a Child Under 18 (1st degree),
- Facilitating Human Trafficking (2nd degree), and
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child (3rd degree).
In addition, Ernestine and Glen Bowman Sr. are each charged with two additional counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Child (1st & 2nd degree); Williams is charged with an additional count of Promoting Prostitution (2nd degree); and all of the defendants, with the exception of Williams, are charged with multiple additional counts of Promoting Prostitution (3rd degree).
The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The first-degree charge of endangering the welfare of a child carries a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility equal to 85 percent of the sentence imposed. Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment is posted with this press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig urged anyone who suspects that individuals are engaged in sex- or labor-related human trafficking to confidentially report such activity by calling the Division of Criminal Justice’s 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline 1-855-END-NJ-HT. In addition, members of the public who suspect improper contact by persons communicating with children on the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children can contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.