Man charged with running male prostitution ring from Ventnor apartment

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Marc A. Branch Marc A. Branch

TRENTON – A Ventnor man was arrested Friday on a first-degree charge of human trafficking for allegedly operating a male prostitution ring from his apartment, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced. The attorney general said that young men, including one or more minors, were being induced to use heroin and cocaine and were being prostituted to male clients.

Marc A. Branch, 39, was arrested shortly after 11 p.m. Oct. 19 at his apartment on North Newport Avenue in Ventnor by detectives of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Human Trafficking Unit and members of the FBI Human Trafficking Task Force in Atlantic City. 

Branch was charged with human trafficking, second-degree charges of sexual assault and prostituting a minor, and third-degree charges of operating a house of prostitution and promoting prostitution. He is being held in the Atlantic County jail with bail set at $250,000.

It is anticipated that additional charges will be filed. No first appearance for branch had been scheduled.

The New Jersey attorney general alleges in a press release that Branch lured vulnerable young men from their teens to their early 20s to his apartment by offering them money, drugs, friendship, and in some instances, shelter, targeting victims who were estranged from their families. He allegedly gave them drugs and alcohol, fueling their drug dependency, so that he could control them and prostitute them to clients who paid up to $200 to engage in a sexual act.

At times, Branch gave a share of the money to the victims, according to the press release.  The sexual assault charge alleges that Branch gave drugs to one underage victim and then allowed a male client to sexually assault him.

Branch allegedly solicited clients for the operation on the Internet by posting nude photos of the young men on Craigslist. He also allegedly used Twitter, Facebook and other websites.

After his arrest, detectives and agents executed a search warrant at his apartment and seized two cell phones, a computer, drug paraphernalia, numerous pornographic videos and magazines, and four imitation firearms.

“The allegations in this case fit a classic pattern for human sexual trafficking in which a predator enslaves vulnerable victims in prostitution by weakening them with drugs and isolating them from any protective support,” said Chiesa in the release.

The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a possible sentence of 20 years to life in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $200,000.

Because the charges are indictable offenses, they will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.

The investigation is being led by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Andrew M. Butchko, chief of the Specialized Crimes Bureau Detective Naike Kudlik, Sgt. Keith Stopko, Detective Eric Barnes, Detective Brian Christensen and Detective Terry Shaw of the Human Trafficking Unit, under the supervision of Deputy Chief of Detectives Alex M. Adkins. Detective Scott Caponi and Lt. Ritchie King of the Division of Criminal Justice also assisted.  Special Agent Dan Garrabrant, head of the FBI Human Trafficking Task Force in Atlantic City, led the investigation for the FBI. The Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office and New Jersey Human Services Police assisted as members of the Task Force. The Ventnor Police Department and Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office also assisted with the investigation. 

To report crimes against children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C., call 800-THE-LOST, or 1-800-843-5678. 

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