(NJ.com) – A Trenton couple accused of forcing a 17-year-old girl to perform sex acts with men at a local hotel have been indicted on sex trafficking charges.
A grand jury indicted Ashley Gardener, 30, and Breon Mickens, 26, on first-degree charges of conspiracy, human trafficking, promoting prostitution of a minor, promoting organized street crime, and advertising commercial sex abuse of a minor.
They were also indicted on second-degree charges of facilitating human trafficking and endangering the welfare of a child.
For three days before the teen escaped the couple and was found on the side of Interstate 295, Gardener forced her to have sexual intercourse with approximately four to 15 men per day, authorities have said.
The suspects deprived the girl of food, gave her marijuana to smoke, and prevented her from calling her family.
Gardener and Mickens are accused of forcing the victim to engage in prostitution on several other occasions between Dec. 27 and Jan. 11 at various hotels in the Mercer County area, refusing to let her leave the hotel for a period of two to three days and forcing her to have sex with multiple men each day, the New Jersey State Police said in announcing the indictments.
Gardener allegedly used Backpage.com to place sexually suggestive ads with photos of herself and the victim to advertise sexual services.
And Gardener would allegedly would arrange by telephone for the sexual services and a price to be paid by the client. When a client arrived, Gardener would collect cash from the man and tell the 17-year-old victim what sex acts she had to perform.
Authorities say Gardener sometimes would stay in the room, but other times she would leave.
Mickens allegedly acted as the “muscle” for the operation and would be inside the hotel room when clients arrived. He would leave after the clients paid.
The victim never received any of the money from the clients, authorities said.
On Jan. 11 the victim was picked up state trooper who were investigating a call about a woman walking along Interstate 295 in Lawrence Township.
She told police she had escaped from a hotel where she was being forced to perform sex acts.
Olivia Rizzo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Find NJ.com on Facebook