Monday, March 31, 2014

Voorhees man charged in Deptford with human trafficking bust

Voorhees man charged in Deptford with human trafficking bust

Joe Green/South Jersey TimesBy Joe Green/South Jersey Times 
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on March 26, 2014 at 12:44 PM, updated March 26, 2014 at 6:07 PM
murray copy.jpgRobert J. Murray
DEPTFORD TWP. — A Voorhees Township man was charged Tuesday with human trafficking and other offenses after he allegedly beat and forced a woman to perform sex acts on men while holding her captive in a hotel, authorities said.
Robert Murray, 40, was arrested and jailed in default of $300,000 bail.
The investigation leading to the charges began when the victim, a 26-year-old South Carolina woman, called Deptford police on Tuesday from the hotel, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office (GCPO) spokesman Bernie Weisenfeld said.
Weisenfeld declined to identify the hotel in which the woman was allegedly kept, saying there was no reason to believe management there was involved in the crime and authorities didn't want to sully the hotel's reputation.
The woman said she’d been held against her will there for a week. She’d been forced every day to perform sex acts on many men for money, she told investigators.
She knew her captor only as “Lotto,” she said, adding he threatened he’d beat her if she didn’t obey him. The woman had what the prosecutor’s office called “numerous injuries consistent with beatings.”
She also told police she was trying to escape the hotel while Lotto was away. Authorities identified Lotto as Murray and arrested him on active warrants when he returned to the hotel.
Other than human trafficking, Murray was charged with promoting prostitution and assault. When arrested, authorities said, he had $1,540 in cash with him. Police seized the money as well.
The alleged victim told investigators she’d come to the area with other women from North Carolina and was turned over to Murray.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton praised the joint investigation involving his office and Deptford police, as well as New Jersey’s human trafficking law enacted last year.
“The new human trafficking law provides a valuable tool for law enforcement to vigorously prosecute those who engage in this type of exploitation,” Dalton said.
“My thanks to the Deptford Township Police Department and the GCPO major crimes unit for the outstanding work on this case.”
Deptford Police Chief William Hanstein pointed out that human trafficking is a widespread problem.
“This investigation started as a 911 call for assistance to our officers, who assisted the victim, and ultimately ended in an arrest,” Hanstein said.
“Human trafficking is not just an urban issue. As a result, law enforcement agencies statewide are working together in an effort to combat this crime against the vulnerable.”
Weisenfeld, citing concern for the alleged victim's safety, declined to comment on treatment or services she was receiving, and on whether she had received help going back to South Carolina.
When asked if any others could face charges, such as johns at the hotel, and whether there might be other victims in the case, Weisenfeld said only Murray had been charged as of Wednesday and the investigation was ongoing.

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