Victims Include Minor and Women Held Against Their Will
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that eight defendants were indicted on first-degree racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with a prostitution and human trafficking ring they allegedly operated in Mercer and Monmouth counties. During a four-month investigation, detectives from the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) discovered that the defendants ran prostitution houses, where, in exchange for money from patrons, the defendants exposed a minor and at least two women held captive against their will to repeated sexual assaults.
The 20-count indictment, obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit on August 5, 2022, also charges various defendants with numerous other crimes related to the criminal enterprise – including human trafficking, promoting prostitution, sexual assault, and money laundering.
The charges stem from “Operation Hudson House” an investigation by the NJSP Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Unit that identified victims being shuttled between two houses of prostitution – one on Hudson Street in Trenton and a second on Prospect Street in Asbury Park – where men purchased poker chips entitling them to select a female for sexual activity for a specific period of time. The investigation also identified a third house on Woodland Street in Trenton that was used as the hub of the operation.
“Forcing anyone – let alone a minor – to perform sexual acts for money is a despicable crime and a brutal abuse of power targeting the most vulnerable victims,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “I commend the work of the investigators and prosecutors who put an end to the sexual violence brought upon a minor and women held captive out of greed, and thank the advocates and service providers who now begin the hard work of helping these survivors live past their trauma.”
“This was a well-organized operation with every defendant taking part in the despicable crimes against these victims,” said Director Pearl Minato. “The charges they face reflect the roles they played and we intend to prosecute them fully for their unlawful conduct. Human trafficking is an affront on human dignity that will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
“Human trafficking victims are subjected to irreprehensible physical and emotional abuse because of the manipulation and fear-based tactics used by their perpetrators,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This investigation shows our dedication to use every resource at our disposal to bring these criminals to justice and dismantle operations that create life-long, damage to victims. We remain committed to working with our partners to aggressively target these offenders but remind everyone to remain vigilant and report these heinous crimes to law enforcement.”
Charged in the criminal enterprise operated between December 16, 2021 and May 11, 2022 are:
Paulino “Pablo” Macolas-Aguirre, 43, of Trenton. As the alleged “boss” of the criminal enterprise, Macolas-Aguirre was responsible for recruiting/luring the female victims to the operation and allegedly gave orders to the workers as to which house each woman should be assigned and when they should be relocated to another house. He was also allegedly responsible for paying the workers and victims at the end of each week, and created and distributed business cards to ensure a steady stream of customers to his enterprise.
Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking (3 counts), promoting prostitution of a child under 18. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking (2 counts), sexual assault. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering (3 counts).
Laura Macolas-Aguirre, 45, of Asbury Park, sister of Paulino Macolas-Aguirre; Edy Villeda-Estrada, 39, of Asbury Park; Daniel Camara-Bonito 55, of Trenton. Alleged employees of the criminal enterprise who were tasked with managing the houses of prostitution. Their responsibilities included permitting customers inside the houses, taking money from the customers and providing them access to the victims.
Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering. Camara-Bonito is also charged with second-degree conspiracy and hindering apprehension (2 counts) and third-degree witness tampering.
Efran Melo-Castillo, 30, of Trenton. An alleged employee of the criminal enterprise responsible for driving the females to houses and outcall services. He was also allegedly responsible for obtaining necessities, such as food and other supplies for the houses and allegedly paid various expenses of the enterprise, including rent to landlords for the houses, at the direction of Macolas-Aguirre.
Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking (2 counts). Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child, money laundering.
Daniel Handerson Camara-Perico, 31 of Trenton and Jose G. Camara-Perico, 30, of Trenton, sons of Camara-Bonito. Alleged employees of the criminal enterprise responsible for driving the victims to houses and outcall services, collecting proceeds from the houses and providing the money to Macolas-Aguirre. The pair allegedly monitored operations at the houses via a surveillance system accessible via a phone app.
Charges – D. Camara Perico – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, endangering the welfare of a child.
Charges – J. Camara-Perico – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering, human trafficking. Second-degree: facilitating human trafficking. Third-degree: promoting prostitution, money laundering.
Daniela Camara-Perico, 29, of Trenton, daughter of Camara-Bonito and girlfriend of Macolas-Aguirre. She allegedly engaged in witness tampering of the juvenile victim in an attempt to insulate the enterprise’s workers from criminal exposure.
Charges – First-degree: conspiracy, racketeering. Second-degree: conspiracy, hindering apprehension. Third-degree: witness tampering.
On January 21, 2022 NJSP detectives conducted surveillance at the Hudson Street house from 5 pm to 9:30 pm and during that time observed approximately 10 men enter the residence through the rear door and then exit approximately 15 to 20 minutes later. At approximately 9:30 pm, a male locked the gate to the residence. Later that night, members of the State Police T.E.A.M.S. Unit, K-9 Unit, Crime Suppression Central Unit, Trenton Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a search warrant on the house. Inside, officers found the residence to be fortified, specifically with a high-level padlock on the gate leading to the alley to the rear door, a 2×4 wood plank across the entrance door, and a sophisticated surveillance system.
Villeda-Estrada and Camara-Bonito were both located inside the house and placed under arrest. The 17-year-old juvenile victim was also located in the residence, where she was assigned to a main level bedroom. The bedrooms in the house each contained a bed, a bedside table equipped with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, paper towels, condoms and lubricant, a trash can and a chair. With the exception of suitcases in the closet and a bicycle in the juvenile’s bedroom, the bedrooms contained no personal effects. During the search, numerous items were seized, including cash and notebook ledgers containing the names of victims, followed by numbers next to each day of the week, suspected to be the number of prostitution clients that each victim saw on a given day.
Through various investigative means, detectives identified Macolas-Aguirre as the alleged ringleader of the human trafficking operation and determined that he was operating out of multiple locations in Trenton and Asbury Park.
On Wednesday, May 11, detectives from the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit, Trenton Police Department, Asbury Park Police Department, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Fugitive Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice executed search warrants at various residences in Trenton and Asbury Park, including Macola-Aguirre’s primary residence on Bridge Street in Trenton. As a result, two additional female victims were located. Detectives also obtained evidence of prostitution, including cash and ledgers believed to be an account of the number of prostitution clients the women saw each day.
Paulino Macolas-Aguirre, Laura Macolas-Aguirre, Efran Melo-Castillo and Jose Camara-Perico were arrested on May 11, during the execution of the search warrants. Following detention hearings, all defendants have been ordered detained pending trial. Daniel Camara-Perico and Daniela Camara-Perico were not present and are fugitives to date.
Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben is prosecuting the case for the DCJ Specialized Crimes Bureau, Human Trafficking Unit, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Valerie Butler, Bureau Chief Erik Daab, and Deputy Director Derek Nececkas.
The investigation was conducted by the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons & Human Trafficking Unit, Trenton Police Department and Asbury Park Police Department.
The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in state prison and a mandatory fine of not less than $25,000. The mandatory fine is for direct victim services, and deposited into the “Human Trafficking Survivor’s Assistance Fund.” The charge of promoting organized street crime carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison, consecutive to the sentence for any underlying crime. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, and Second-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Acting Attorney General Platkin, Colonel Callahan, and Director Minato urge 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.
For Macolas-Aguirre: George Somers, Esq.
For Villeda-Estrada: Nicole Carlo, Esq.
For Camara-Bonito: Antonio Martinez, Esq.
For Jose G. Camara-Perico: Jennifer L. Gottschalk, Esq.
For Daniel Handerson Camara-Perico: Unknown
For Daniela Camara-Perico: Unknown
For Melo-Castillo: Louis A. Mangione, Jr., Esq.
For Macolas-Aguirre: Kevin A. Holleran, Esq.