On February 19, 2018, prosecutors in Middlesex County, New Jersey, announced that three individuals had been charged with various acts of promoting prostitution or engaging in prostitution, as reported by Lancaster Online. According to Lancaster Online, Gabriella Colon and Richard Ortiz, from both from New York, were arrested and charged after allegedly coercing a “17-year-old Lancaster girl into having sex with roughly 30 men between” January 1st and February 2nd of 2018.
Colon, 18 years old, and Ortiz, 23 years old, who are being held at the Middlesex County jail, are charged with human trafficking, conspiracy to commit human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a child, conspiracy to promote prostitution of a child, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal restraint, and numerous child pornography offenses, according to NBC New York.
Lancaster Online also reported that Aryeh Goodman, a New Jersey resident, has been “charged with engaging in prostitution with a child and child endangerment” for allegedly having sex with the 17-year-old victim. Goodman, 35 years old, is a rabbi who runs a “religious learning center out of his East Brunswick home,” according to NJ.com. Goodman turned himself in five days after allegedly engaging in sex with the victim at an undisclosed hotel on February 1, 2018, according to The Middlesex County Prosecutor.
This is not Goodman’s first run in with the law. In 2015, he served time in prison for indecent assault on a child under the age of thirteen, according to NJ.com. In 2001, Goodman assaulted a juvenile male while he worked as a camp counselor at Camp Manachem, according to reports by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency. That report also states that Goodman was arrested for this crime in 2013, and was ultimately charged with indecent assault of a person less than 13 years of age. Following this, Goodman was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in prison. According to The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, this sentence included that Goodman be registered as a Tier 3 sex offender. However, the CSE Institute searched but was unable to locate Goodman’s name on the New Jersey or national sex offender registry.
While Middlesex County has issued a press-release clarifying that Goodman’s home ministry was not affiliated with the area’s Chabad Lubavitch movement, the fact that this alleged sex buyer and convicted sex offender proclaims to be religious figurehead is especially troubling. According to Vice News, individuals place trust in their religious leaders, including parents who leave their children with religious figures with the intention of their children being safe. Vice further explains that it is particularly problematic because it “obliterates” people’s trust with religious institutions when members of the religious community are accused or charged with assaulting juvenile victims.
The CSE Institute appreciates efforts taken by the East Brunswick police to effectuate arrests of those engaging in human trafficking. The CSE Institute applauds the charges by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, which focus on both the alleged traffickers and sex buyers. These charges align with the CSE Institute’s views in support of the Nordic Model, which calls for law enforcement tactics to be focused on the buyers and sellers of commercial sex acts rather than the exploited persons.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or of Villanova University.