TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced today that three defendants were sentenced to state prison for trafficking a girl, 16, from New York to New Jersey and making her work as a prostitute in the prostitution ring they operated, which advertised on Backpage.com.
The following three defendants were sentenced either today or Friday (Nov. 3) by Superior Court Judge Robert M. Vinci in Bergen County:
- Ernestine Bowman, 33, of Orange, N.J., was sentenced Friday to 10 years in state prison, including 39 months of parole ineligibility. She pleaded guilty last year to second-degree facilitating human trafficking. She ran the prostitution ring with her husband, Glen Bowman Sr., 42, of Newark, N.J. Glen Bowman Sr. pleaded guilty on Oct. 16 to first-degree conspiracy to commit human trafficking and faces a recommended sentence of 13 years in prison, including five years of parole ineligibility. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 14 by Judge Vinci.
- Glen Bowman Jr., 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Glen Bowman Sr. and stepson of Ernestine Bowman, was sentenced Friday to six years in state prison. He previously pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy to promote prostitution.
- Jessica Copeland, 29, of Newark, N.J. – who acted as boss or “bottom” over the prostitutes in the ring – was sentenced today to six years in state prison, including three years of parole ineligibility. She pleaded guilty in September to second-degree facilitating human trafficking.
Deputy Attorneys General Brandy Malfitano and Jamie Picard prosecuted the defendants and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, Human Trafficking Unit. The defendants were indicted in April 2015 as a result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the South Hackensack Police Department. The defendants were charged with conspiring to traffic the 16-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y., to make her work as a prostitute at motels in South Hackensack and Clifton, N.J.
“These defendants trapped a 16-year-old girl in an unspeakable hell of sexual slavery, threatening her with violence if she did not obey them,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This is a classic case of human trafficking, in which the perpetrators isolated and intimidated a vulnerable victim so they could exploit her for their profit. I commend the South Hackensack Police and our attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice for rescuing this victim and bringing those responsible to justice.”
“Our Human Trafficking Unit will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to apprehend and convict human traffickers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Human traffickers typically isolate their victims and remove them from any support system, so it is critical that members of the public notify us if they see a young woman or child in questionable circumstances. We will move swiftly to investigate and save victims like the teenage girl in this case.”
Attorney General Porrino 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 855-END-NJ-HT (855-363-6548).
“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. “We remain committed to rescuing these victims from the underworld and arresting the predators who are responsible.”
Deputy Attorneys General Malfitano and Picard are prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit, within the Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Annmarie Taggart and Bureau Chief Lauren Scarpa Yfantis. 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. Attorney General Porrino 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 defendants had conspired to lure the 16-year-old victim into a life of prostitution. The victim met Glen Bowman Jr., in Brooklyn, N.Y., several months earlier, and he conspired with his father to traffic her to New Jersey to work in the prostitution ring. Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland both threatened the 16-year-old with physical violence if she did not follow their rules and perform to their expectations. The defendants drove the victim and other 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 picked them up and collected the money they had been paid. Glen Bowman Sr. was the primary leader of the prostitution ring, but Ernestine Bowman took on a greater leadership role after her husband was arrested and imprisoned in New York in August 2014.
- For Ernestine Bowman: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Ian Silvera of the Bergen County Public Defender’s Office
- For Glen Bowman Jr.: James Gizzi, Esq., Glen Rock, N.J.
- For Jessica Copeland: Landry Belizaire, Esq., Belizaire & Associates, P.A., Bloomfield, N.J.
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