Marc A. Branch, 39, allegedly had young men use heroin and cocaine as he prostituted them to male clients from his apartment. According to investigators, he did the following to his victims:
Branch lured the young men - ranging in age from their teens to early 20s - by offering them money, drugs, friendship and - in some instances - shelter. He targeted youngsters estranged from their families.
Branch then fed their substance addictions with alcohol and drugs to maintain control over them, authorities said, as clients paid up to $200 for a sex act. Investigators added that he gave the victims a share of the revenue at times.
Branch sought his clients on the Internet, posing nude photos of the young men on Craigslist. He also used Twitter, Facebook and other websites to prostitute the victims.
He also gave drugs to a victim under age 18 and allowed a client to sexually assault him.
Branch was arrested just after 11 p.m. Friday at his North Newport Avenue apartment. Detectives and agents soon after searched the apartment on a warrant and seized “numerous pornographic videos and magazines,” authorities said, along with imitation firearms, two cell phones, a computer and drug paraphernalia.
Branch was charged with human trafficking, sexual assault, prostituting a minor, operating a house of prostitution and promoting prostitution. He was committed to the Atlantic County Jail in default of $250,000 bail. Authorities said they expect to file more charges.
“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,” New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said.
“When we developed information about Branch’s alleged crimes, we moved quickly to arrest him and rescue his victims,” Chiesa continued.
“The new Human Trafficking Unit we formed earlier this year in the Division of Criminal Justice will continue to cooperate with partners like the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to aggressively investigate any cases of human trafficking in New Jersey.”
As a first-degree crime, the human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years to life in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
The second-degree crimes of which Branch is accused - sexual assault and prostituting a minor - which carry a five to 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $150,000. The remaining charges - alleging third degree crimes - carry three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Contact Joe Green at email@example.com.