TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) today announced that a state grand jury voted to file criminal charges against a suspect who was allegedly operating a human trafficking network in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, after one of the victims, a teen girl, escaped from a hotel in Burlington County where she allegedly had been held captive and sex trafficked.
As New Jersey marks Human Trafficking Prevention Month, highlighting ongoing law enforcement efforts to prevent this form of modern-day slavery and to bring suspected traffickers to justice, Attorney General Platkin announced the return of a 16-count indictment against Nieem Johnson, 40, whose last known address was in Philadelphia.
The defendant has been charged by a grand jury with two counts of human trafficking (1st degree), conspiracy (1st degree), two counts of facilitating human trafficking (2nd degree), advertising commercial sex abuse of a minor (1st degree), promoting organized street crime (1st degree), criminal restraint (3rd degree), promoting prostitution of a minor (1st degree), engaging in prostitution with a minor (2nd degree), three counts of sexual assault (2nd degree), criminal coercion (3rd degree), endangering the welfare of a child (3rd degree), and aggravated assault (2nd degree).
Johnson’s alleged co-defendant, Thomas Fulcher, 54, of Marlton, was charged with sexual assault (2nd degree) and engaging in prostitution with a minor (2nd degree). These charges and allegations are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
Johnson was arrested on August 31, 2023, in Atlantic City, following a months-long investigation by detectives from the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Unit, NJSP Special Investigations Unit, and DCJ.
It is alleged that the crimes occurred between February 28, 2023, and when Johnson was taken into custody.
The investigation began after NJSP detectives were dispatched to the Bordentown Township Police Department to investigate a report of human trafficking on March 3, 2023. Bordentown police officers had located a 15-year-old victim, who allegedly ran away from a hotel room in Bordentown to escape from Johnson. The investigation found that Johnson transported the victim to the hotel against her will to engage in commercial sex acts.
During the investigation, detectives allegedly discovered an online advertisement offering the juvenile for prostitution, and detectives linked Johnson to the ads. During his arrest on August 31, an additional female victim who Johnson was allegedly forcing to engage in commercial sex acts for several months was identified and safely recovered. The investigation revealed Johnson had allegedly used threats and physical violence, including choking the second victim by grabbing her around the neck, pushing her against a wall, and lifting her off the ground by her neck, to coerce her into remaining in the sex trade for his financial gain.
“The allegations in the indictment – holding two victims in a state of involuntary servitude, advertising their availability for sex acts, and engaging in sex acts with a minor — are abhorrent,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We will do everything that we can to ensure the defendants are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The two survivors in this case are alleged to have suffered a level of exploitation and abuse that no person should have to endure,” said J. Stephen Ferketic, Director of DCJ. “This case demonstrates the commitment of the Division of Criminal Justice to combat human trafficking, aggressively prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to provide a measure of justice for the victims of these horrific acts.”
Johnson has been lodged in the Atlantic County Correctional Facility, where he will remain detained pending trial in Superior Court in Atlantic County. Fulcher was released pending trial.
Convictions of first-degree criminal charges can be punishable by up to 20 years in state prison. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in New Jersey State Prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The investigation was led by NJSP Detective Michael Fama. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Elizabeth Vogelsong-Parvin from the Human Trafficking Unit of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of DCJ Deputy Director Theresa L. Hilton.
For Nieem Johnson: John Bjorklund, Esq.
For Thomas Fulcher: Anthony Dimento, Esq.