Three People Charged With Sex Trafficking Of Minor
TRENTON, N.J. – Two people appeared in federal court today on charges they conspired to engage in sex trafficking of a minor and engaged in sex trafficking of a minor, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Aaron Gray, 29, a/k/a “AR,” Aja Easley, 22, both of Camden, appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni in Trenton federal court. Gray, Easley and a third defendant, Kenneth Mertz, 35, of Collingswood, who remains at large, are each charged in a three-count complaint with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of a minor and with sex trafficking of a minor. Gray is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Gray and Easley were ordered detained without bail.
According to the documents filed in this case:
On March 2, 2015, Easley allegedly communicated with the victim, a minor, using a social media website. She told the victim she was “worried about” the victim because of a previous assault by the victim’s boyfriend. She offered the victim money, clothing and shelter and met with the victim at the Camden Transportation Center. Easley allegedly told the victim about a dating website and said the victim could make money through the website by going on “dates.” Easley and the victim later met Gray and Mertz at a residence in Camden. Mertz then drove everyone to a motel in Cherry Hill.
At the motel, Gray and Easley allegedly attempted to convince the victim to engage in commercial sex acts and took suggestive photos of the victim, which were used as part of an advertisement on the website. Easley used her cellular telephone to communicate with multiple individuals who responded to the ad. Gray gave the victim instructions on what to do when the respondents arrived. The victim observed Gray in possession of a firearm and also observed a collapsible nightstick, which was later determined to belong to Mertz.
On March 3, 2015, at a motel in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, the victim engaged in sex acts with multiple individuals, who responded to the ad and paid money to the defendants. The defendants later told the victim they were taking the victim to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to meet another person who had responded to the ad.
On the way to Atlantic City, the defendants allegedly agreed to let the victim stop at a residence in Gloucester City, New Jersey. The victim went inside and contacted the police, leading to the defendants’ arrest.
The count of conspiracy to engage in the sex trafficking of a minor carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. The substantive count of sex trafficking of a minor carries a statutory mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a statutory maximum of life in prison. The felon-in-possession count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison. Each count also carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel, and members of the Mount Laurel Police Department, under the direction of Police Chief Dennis Cribben, and the Gloucester City Police Department, under the direction of Acting Police Chief Michael Morell, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Brendan Day in Trenton.
The charges and allegations summarized above are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.