Atlantic City Man Accused of Running Human-Trafficking Sex Ring
An Atlantic City man, first charged with promoting prostitution in August, is now indicted for allegedly running a human trafficking ring that kept women imprisoned in motels for use as hookers.
Donnie Bethea, 30, faces 15 separate counts, including six first-degree human-trafficking charges, according to information from the office of acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain. His indictment was handed down Thursday.
Each first-degree charge carries a possible sentence of 10 to 20 years in a New Jersey state prison and fines as high as $200,000.
Bethea was the target of a six-month probe by the FBI's "Innocence Lost" task force, Atlantic County investigators, staffers with the New Jersey Department of Human Services and Egg Harbor Township Police.
Authorities contend that Bethea lured at least six women to several motels, threatening them with physical restraint or serious bodily harm if they tried to leave.
Investigators allege that Bethea advertised their services as prostitutes in postings at the backpage.com website, forced them into liaisons with responding men, and keeping the proceeds.
He was first charged on August 28 by Egg Harbor Township police who reported finding a 22-year-old woman being held against her will in the Ramada Limited, and being forced into prostitution.
Bethea was charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault, promoting prostitution, criminal restraint and possession of a weapon, and jailed in the Atlantic County Justice Facility on $250,000 bail.
Followup charges on September 10 were filed, according to McClain's office, after detectives learned that there was another victim before the one for which he was arrested. Investigators say they found four more, all in their early 20s. Prosecutors filed the six human-trafficking charges October 1, and Bethea's bail was increased to $1,000,000.