Atlantic City man charged with 6 counts of human trafficking

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Submitted/Donnie Bethea, 30, of Atlantic City Submitted/Donnie Bethea, 30, of Atlantic City

Police allege Donnie Bethea, 30, held women captive and forced them into prostitution

MAYS LANDING – An Atlantic City man was indicted Thursday, Dec. 19 on charges that he operated a human trafficking ring by holding women captive in motel rooms and forcing them into prostitution, acting Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain announced earlier this month.

Donnie Bethea, 30, was indicted by an Atlantic County grand jury on 15 counts, including six counts of human trafficking. Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Buckley represented the state in the matter.

The charges stem from a six-month-long joint investigation conducted by the Egg Harbor Township Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Innocence Lost Task Force, which is comprised of members of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices, the FBI and NJ Department of Human Services.

The investigation alleges that over the course of five months, Bethea lured at least six women to the Ramada Limited and other West Atlantic City motels, where he held them captive in a room by physical restraint or under threat of serious bodily harm. He used the online classifieds website to advertise the women as providers of sexual services and forced them women to engage in prostitution with men who responded to the ads, the prosecutor alleged, and forced the women to turn over all the money they received to him.

Egg Harbor Township Police arrested Bethea Aug. 28 after discovering that he had been reportedly holding a 22-year-old woman against her will in a room at the Ramada Limited and forcing her to engage in prostitution. Bethea was charged with aggravated sexual assault, promoting prostitution, aggravated assault, criminal restraint and possession of a weapon. He was lodged at the Atlantic County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.

On Sept. 10, Bethea was additionally charged with promoting prostitution and criminal restraint after detectives discovered Bethea had previously held another 22-year-old woman against her will for a week in a room at the Ramada and forced her to engage in prostitution.

As the investigation progressed, four more women, all in their early 20s, were discovered.

On Oct. 1, McClain authorized additionally charging Bethea with six counts of first-degree human trafficking. Bail was increased to $1 million full cash, and Bethea remains lodged at the county jail.

Human trafficking, a first-degree crime, caries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and up to $200,000 in fines.

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