A South Jersey man was arrested after he allegedly forced a woman to dance at a Philadelphia strip club for several days and didn’t allow her to leave.
Michael Watts, 43, of Voorhees, New Jersey was arrested Friday in Camden and charged with first-degree human trafficking and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact.
Watts is accused of luring a 20-year-old Texas woman to New Jersey under the false promise of a modeling job. The victim told detectives Watts provided her with airfare to Philadelphia, picked her up from the airport on July 13 and took her to his apartment. The woman said Watts then told her that she belonged to him, took away her cellphone and money and threatened her that there would be consequences if she tried to leave.
Watts, who investigators say was known to the victim as “Chris” and “Daddy,” then took her to Club Cove on the 3100 block of Richmond Street in Philadelphia where he introduced her to 25-year-old Staysha Hackmann and 21-year-old Michelle Rolon, both of Voorhees, according to police.
The victim said Watts told her she had to earn money by dancing. When she refused, Hackmann and Rolon stripped her down and forced her to dance while she was partially nude, officials said.
The victim told police Watts then took her to a hotel in Voorhees where he told her she was being watched, once again indicating there would be consequences if she tried to leave. The victim said she was then forced to dance again at Club Cove on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Hackmann and Rolon later took the woman to an apartment on the 1100 block of Bibbs Road in Voorhees Wednesday night into Thursday morning, police said. On Thursday the woman managed to escape and fled as Hackmann and Rolon chased after her in a car and on foot, according to investigators. The victim finally ran into a bank where she asked employees to call police, officials said.
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Hackmann and Rolon were both arrested Thursday and charged with third-degree criminal restraint. They were remanded to the Camden County Jail with bail set at $25,000 each.
Watts was remanded to the Camden County Jail on $500,000 bail. It was not known Monday if he has retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf, according to the Associated Press.
“Human trafficking knows no boundaries and is not just an urban problem, as many people believe,” Voorhees Police Chief Louis Bordi said. “Identifying and caring for victims continues to be a high priority for law enforcement and we must look beyond the arrest of suspects as the sole remedy in combating human trafficking. I am encouraged that the victim has been reunited with her family through available social services.”
If you have any additional information on the case, please call Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Michelle Chambers at (856) 580-6070 or Voorhees Police Detective James Buinicky at (856) 882-1111. Tips may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org