For reporters, it was a big story. For the Corzine administration, it was a big case. But how New Jerseyans react come November will be what matters when the final word is written about a sex trafficking ring that authorities said operated exclusively out of the state’s biggest cities.
Allen “Prince” Brown, 47, of Jersey City, forced an untold number of women into prostitution, to the point of being beaten if they didn’t maintain a daily quota, Attorney General Anne Milgram told reporters.
“This is a case about human trafficking which, put simply, is modern-day slavery,” said Milgram, who made her name prosecuting human traffickers in New York City. The only difference: These women weren’t smuggled in from another country. They were plucked off slum streets in Newark, Elizabeth, Camden and Philadelphia.
Brown’s mother and niece were indicted with him and others on a host of charges, including racketeering, human trafficking and money laundering. Milgram even slapped a label on the probe: “Operation Red Light.”
Apparently, the brutality and exploitation went on for nearly two decades before “someone” came forward, authorities said.
“We charge that Allen Brown enslaved vulnerable young women in a living hell of addiction and prostitution, controlling them with narcotics, threats and beatings,” Milgram declared. “We will prosecute him to the full extent of the law.”
As a story, it has various TV-crime elements. There’s no question that innocents were ruthlessly victimized. According to Milgram, they were kept in “stables” locked from the outside.
Intentional or not, this is bound to boost the urban Democratic vote that Gov. Corzine must depend on come November against popular corruption-buster Chris Christie. At the very least, the administration hopes it will project a tough-on-crime aura.
Only this is crime of a different kind.
And that’s the question underlying the grand display: How does it affect YOUR quality of life, Miss/Mrs./Mr. Main Street?
Does it make you feel more secure? Are you more, or less, confident in the long arm of the law? In these times, does it actually push the needle in either direction?
Decide for yourself:
“The arrest and subsequent indictment of Allen Brown is another example of the positive results achieved when law enforcement agencies join forces,” said Jersey City Police Chief Thomas Comey. “This collaborative effort resulted in the rescue of vulnerable individuals from what basically is a life of involuntary servitude. This case shows that prostitution is not a victimless crime.”
One of several prepared statements read to reporters today.
On July 28, the woman who acted as Brown’s underboss quietly pleaded guilty to racketeering in a Jersey City courtroom.
In return, state prosecutors recommended 40-year-old Annie “China” Cooper be sentenced to five to 10 years in prison — which could have her back on the street in a couple of years IF she’s serves any time at all.
Authorities emphasized today that Brown forced Cooper to discipline the women or face punishment herself.
They said he also recruited soldiers in the operation to bring the women to designated spots, get them drugs and keep things under control. Among them were three men also indicted with Brown: Anthony Evans, 51, of Jersey City; Brown’s nephew, Arthur Brown, 37, of Jersey City; and Jerome Robinson, 30, of Newark.
Brown’s crew also included his mom, Tecora P. Brown, 72, of Bayonne; his niece, Tecora L. Brown, 35, of Jersey City; and Marlo Taylor, 39, of Newark, the indictment alleges.
Authorities say Brown’s people put his vehicles and other illicit proceeds in their names — including a half-million dollar inheritance that his mother laundered after Brown extorted it from a victim.
New Jersey’s top cop said investigators arrested Brown, Cooper and Evans last September. But little, if anything, was said at the time. No news conferences were held, no releases issued.
The case was so big, authorities said, that it took a year to get indictments returned.
So here we are: midsummer 2009, three months to Election Day. Reporters attend a news conference, where authorities unveil the specifics of a 20-year criminal enterprise they say they’ve brought to its knees.
Let that be a message to the bad guys, they say: We’ll get you.
In the final analysis, as the phrase goes, what does it mean?
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