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South Hackensack police who rescued girl, 16, help smash human trafficking prostitution ring

Photo Credit: South Hackensack PD, NJ Attorney General

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Thanks to South Hackensack police, five people are charged with prostituting a 16-year-old girl they trafficked from New York to New Jersey as part of a prostitution ring that they advertised on Backpage.com, authorities said today.

Two remained fugitives this afternoon, authorities said.

“These defendants cruelly exploited a runaway who was only 16, trapping her in a wretched life of prostitution,” Acting New Jersey Attorney General John J. Hoffman said this afternoon. “[T]hey ruthlessly did what human traffickers always do to turn an illicit profit, which is to target vulnerable victims, deprive them of any benevolent support, and conscript them into modern-day slavery.”

It began when an undercover South Hackensack police officer responded to an online adult advertisement of a very young girl with her breasts exposed and was told he could have “full sex” with her for $160 cash at a motel on Route 46 in South Hackensack, Hoffman said.

When the officer arrived for the motel “appointment” on Oct. 1, the girl answered the door. He asked why the bathroom door was closed, and discovered a woman there identified as Tonika Williams, 31, of Raleigh, N.C. ( above left, bottom ), Hoffman said.

The girl “invited Williams to come out and told her that the client had paid to have sex with both of them,” he said.

At that point, backups converged on the room and Williams and the girl were taken into custody.

Soon after, one of the alleged ringleaders, 31-year-old Ernestine Bowman of Orange ( above left, top ), arrived at the motel to pick up the others and was arrested, as well.

The youngster, who’d been reported missing out of New York State, was turned over to New Jersey child protection workers, local police told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at the time.

An investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice and South Hackensack police found that the girl was being trafficked for sex by Ernestine Bowman, her husband, Glen Bowman Sr., 40 ( top, right ), and their son, 20-year-old Glen Bowman Jr. of Brooklyn, Hoffman said.

A fifth defendant, Jessica Renee Copeland, 26, of Newark ( bottom, right ) acted as boss or “bottom” over the prostitutes in the ring, driving the girls to work in South Hackensack, Clifton and other locations, the attorney general said.

Copeland — who went by the name “China White” — and the elder Bowman also threatened the New York girl with violence “if she did not follow their rules and perform to their expectations,” Hoffman said.

At the end of each day, either Copeland or other defendants picked the various girls up and collected the day’s proceeds, he said.

Williams also worked as a prostitute while supervising the girl and “collecting her proceeds at the end of the day,” Hoffman said.

“The 16-year-old victim generally was required to work from Monday through Friday as a prostitute and spent weekends at an apartment in the Bronx,” he said.

Glen Bowman Sr. and Copeland were arrested in August 2014 in New York on an indictment filed by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office charging them with sexually trafficking two adult women in New York and New Jersey in 2012 and 2013 as part of their alleged prostitution ring.

Ernestine Bowman then took on a greater leadership role in the ring, making hotel reservations, driving the 16-year-old victim to hotels and giving her with condoms and lingerie to wear, Hoffmans said.

She also collected the money, he said.

Ernestine Bowman remained held on $200,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail.

Her husband was held on $200,000 and Copeland on $20,000 in New York City.

Arrest warrants were issued for Williams and Glen Bowman Jr. who remained fugitives, Hoffman said.

All five are charged with conspiracy, human trafficking, facilitating human trafficking, prostituting a minor and child endangerment.

The 12-count indictment returned by a state grand jury indictment also charges Ernestine and Glen Bowman Sr. with additional child endangerment offenses, Williams with another promoting prostitution count and all but Williams with additional promotion offense.

Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice commended South Hackensack police “for infiltrating the sordid world of online sex trafficking and rescuing an underage girl in the process.”

State authorities singled out borough Police Capt. Robert Kaiser, Lt. Robert Chinchar and Detective James Donatello for praise.

“Our department has been committed to conducting these undercover operations to flush out the criminality of prostitution and narcotics in our motels,” South Hackensack Police Chief Joseph Terraccino said.

“Our agency remains committed to rescuing these victims from the underworld and arresting the predators who are responsible,” the chief said.

Deputy Attorney General Brandy T. Malfitano presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit. 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.

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State authorities urge anyone who suspects sex- or labor-related human trafficking to confidentially notify the Division of Criminal Justice through its 24-hour NJ Human Trafficking Hotline: 877-986-7534

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MUGSHOTS: South Hackensack PD, NJ Attorney General

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