Four men have been indicted on human trafficking charges involving a 14-year-old girl who was allegedly coerced into prostitution.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Hoffman said Michael McLeod, David Powell Jr and Tyree Jeter, all from Jersey City, New Jersey, and Demetrius James Hayward from Summerville, South Carolina, face charges of conspiracy, child endangerment and scores of other other counts, in addition to the human trafficking charges.
The four men were arrested in May, CBS New York reports.
The FBI Child Exploitation Task Force were tipped off about photos of the 14-year-old being used on ads for an escort service, according to WCBS 800's Ginny Kosola.
Authorities said McLeod led the operation and used threats and violence to force the 14-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman to work as prostitutes in hotels. The women had sex with up to 10 men per day with all money going to McLeod, according to Hoffman. McLeod also allegedly put a gun to the 18-year-old woman's head and threatened to kill her.
“This is a heartbreaking case that fits a classic pattern of human trafficking," Hoffman said in a press release, according to CBS. "… No child would submit to such horrific conditions unless she faced a threat of violence, which in this case allegedly was conveyed by the ring’s boss in the form of brutal attacks on a second victim.”
A conviction of first-degree human trafficking can carry 20 years without parole and a fine of $200,000.
According to data from the United Nation's Children's Fund, human trafficking rates in the United States are highest in California, Texas, Florida and New York. The data estimates 5.5 million children are victims of trafficking, with risk for children increasing as demand for commercial sex rises, fueling a nearly $150 billion a year industry.