New Jersey man cuffed for forcing women into prostitution in New York City

silver handcuffs
Photo via Getty Images

A New Jersey man was indicted on charges of forcing young women into prostitution in New York City, prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Akil “Damion” Martin, 28, of Elizabeth, NJ, was charged with three counts of sex trafficking and one count of promoting prostitution in the third degree.

“As alleged in the indictment, Mr. Martin has spent the last two years using social media, death threats, beatings, and guns, to recruit, transport, and coercively prostitute five young women who lived in constant and very real fear for their lives,” said District Attorney Cy Vance.

According to court documents, Martin allegedly used social media and other methods to communicate with and recruit more than five young women, who were in their late teens and early 20s, into a sex trafficking scheme from at least February 2019 to February 2021. Martin would allegedly transport the victims to hotels throughout New York City, where they would perform commercial sexual services for his profit under the threat of physical violence and firearms.

Martin would allegedly demand that the victims follow a strict set of rules and held their identifying documents in order to coerce them to engage in prostitution and prevent them from leaving. He then forced the victims to hand over the money through web-based banking services, collecting over $50,000 over the course of the operation. If the victims refused to work, Martin would allegedly coerce, intimidate, and physically abuse the women, including subjecting them to repeated beatings and other acts of violence.

On more than one occasion, Martin allegedly drew firearms on the victims and threatened to kill them if they spoke to law enforcement. In January 2021, a young woman from the Bronx reported threatening text messages to the NYPD, in whichMartin allegedly said he would shoot her and kill her.

The Manhattan D.A.’s office announced the start of services at the Phoenix Project, a new child and youth sex trafficking intervention program created with the New York Foundling for young survivors across New York City. The Phoenix Project is funded by a $2 million grant from the D.A.’s Office’s Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, which D.A. Vance created using millions seized in investigations against major banks.

“The recruitment, coercion, and forced prostitution of survivors under threat of physical violence are hallmarks of the disturbing reality of sex trafficking in New York City,” said District Attorney Vance. “My Office’s Human Trafficking Response Unit will continue to work with communities, service providers and our partners in law enforcement to investigate and shut down these violent enterprises. I urge anyone who may be a victim of trafficking or who knows someone who may be a victim to call my Office’s human trafficking hotline at 212-335-3400.”

More from around NYC