Police: Man ‘enslaved’ women through violence, threats

 Percival R. Williams Percival R. Williams EDISON — A township resident pleaded guilty Feb. 10 to human trafficking charges, marking one of the state’s first guilty pleas under its human trafficking statute, according to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Percival R. Williams, 36, admitted guilt to conspiracy to commit human trafficking and promoting prostitution before Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County.

“Williams used deception, violence and fear to strip vulnerable young women of their freedom and enslave them in a life of prostitution,” Hoffman said. “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.”

Police said Williams conspired with others to lure women into New Jersey, where he forced them into a life of high-priced prostitution and further enslaved them through violence and threats of violence.

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Williams 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.

“Through stepped-up investigations, a public awareness campaign and law enforcement training, we are targeting this heinous crime of human trafficking,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said. “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 also pleaded guilty Feb. 10 before

Ferencz to promoting prostitution.

The state will recommend that she be sentenced to a term of probation.

Judge Ferencz scheduled Williams to be sentenced on April 7. Vaughn will be sentenced 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 Cleveland, Ohio. He brought them to New Jersey — either against their will or by enticing them with promises of a relationship or better life — to enslave them in prostitution. He posed as a music producer and owned high-performance cars, including two Maseratis and a Porsche.

Investigators learned that Williams abducted one woman from Cleveland, Ohio, according to police. 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, 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. 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.

The charges stemmed from an investigation by the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and the Edison Police Department.