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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 25, 2018

Middlesex County, New Jersey, Man Found Guilty On Racketeering, Murder, And Weapon Charges

NEWARK, N.J. – A New Brunswick, New Jersey, man was convicted at trial today for his violent role in a racketeering conspiracy involving multiple brothels that employed illegal aliens throughout New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Wilmer Chavez Romero, a/k/a “Charmin,” 29, was convicted of all eight counts of an indictment charging him with one count each of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to harbor aliens; two counts of using a firearm for a violent crime; and two counts of murder in aid of racketeering. He was convicted following a two and a half-week trial before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court. The jury deliberated for five and a half hours before returning the guilty verdict.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

Chavez Romero served as an enforcer for a prostitution enterprise that helped illegal aliens enter the country and employed them at brothels throughout Cumberland, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties. The enterprise used threats and acts of violence – including burglary, assaults, and murder – to expand its territory, thwart rival brothels, exact revenge, punish enterprise members and associates who had been disloyal, and silence people they believed were cooperating with law enforcement. 

Chavez Romero acted at the direction of the leaders of the enterprise, Juan Fredy Hernandez-Zozaya, 40, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Rojas, 36, both of New Brunswick, who oversaw brothels in New Brunswick, Trenton, Orange, Asbury Park, Lakewood, and Bridgeton. 

Chavez Romero personally committed acts of violence to further the enterprise, including participating in the murders of two victims during separate robberies. On Sept. 4, 2012, Chavez Romero, armed with a firearm, entered a rival brothel house in Trenton with the intent to rob the house. During the robbery, one victim was shot in the leg and survived, while another was shot and killed.
 
On Jan. 23, 2013, Chavez Romero entered another rival brothel in Trenton armed with a .40 caliber firearm. Chavez Romero attempted to commit a robbery when a fight broke out and a victim was shot and killed. 

In addition, during recorded interviews with law enforcement in 2012 and 2014, Chavez Romero discussed his role in the murders, as well as beatings, shootings, and other acts of violence that he committed to further the enterprise’s goals and shut down its competition. As part of the enterprise, Chavez Romero also conspired to conceal and harbor aliens and aided in their interstate transport for use in the prostitution enterprise.

The racketeering and racketeering conspiracy charges carry a potential life sentence. The assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Both murder in aid of racketeering counts carry a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Each use of a firearm during a violent crime count carries a mandatory consecutive term of 10 years in prison. The conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens count carries a maximum potential term of 10 years in prison. All counts in the indictment carry a potential $250,000 fine. Chavez Romero’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25, 2018.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael in Newark, as well as the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, Trenton Police Department, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, and the N.J. State Police Ballistics Lab, with the investigation leading to today’s conviction. 

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meredith Williams and Melissa Wangenheim of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.

Defense counsel: Kevin F. Carlucci Esq. and Carol Gillen Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Newark

Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
18-225
Updated June 25, 2018