Saturday, April 25, 2015

Former N.J. corrections officer sentenced for faking as a cop to coerce prostitutes

Juan Stevens, 51, of Burlington Township, admitted to impersonating a cop multiple times between May 2011 and July 2012 so he could threaten prostitutes with arrest and force them to perform discounted or free sexual favors. (New Jersey Attorney General´s Office)
Juan Stevens, 51, of Burlington Township, admitted to impersonating a cop multiple times between May 2011 and July 2012 so he could threaten prostitutes with arrest and force them to perform discounted or free sexual favors. (New Jersey Attorney General's Office)

A former New Jersey corrections officer now finds himself on the other side of the bars after a judge sentenced him Wednesday morning to 5 years in prison for acts that amounted to a truly gross abuse of power. 

Juan Stevens, 51, of Burlington Township, admitted to impersonating a cop multiple times between May 2011 and July 2012 so he could threaten prostitutes with arrest and force them to perform discounted or free sexual favors.

“By abusing his badge to commit these abhorrent and offensive crimes, this correction officer proved that he has no business in our state prisons, except as a prisoner," Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement.

New Jersey State Police arrested Stevens March 21 for charges of sexual assault and criminal restraint. Investigators first linked Stevens to an incident that occurred Feb. 24, 2012, when he set up a meeting with an escort at a Westampton hotel and agreed to pay her $125 for 30 minutes of sex. 

But once there, Stevens instead flashed a police-style badge, identified himself as a cop and said he was conducting a prostitution sting. Prosecutors said Stevens also uttered a "stand down" command into a cell phone that appeared to have been outfitted with a walkie-talkie feature. He then fondled the victim, told her they could work it out and forced her to have sex with him. She reported the assault to the Westampton Police Department.

A state investigation revealed it wasn't the first time Stevens had pulled the stunt. Prosecutors said Stevens in September 2011 called a woman through an online escort ad and met her at a home in Philadelphia. He then flashed a badge and said he was a police officer but offered to "let her go" if she performed oral sex on him.

Stevens in January 2012 called another escort and offered $300 for a sexual rendezvous at a Maple Shade motel. But, again, once he entered the room, he pulled out a badge and said he was a cop. This time he examined the woman's identification card. He then demanded oral sex from the woman, who prosecutors said complied because she feared arrest and realized from Stevens' review of her ID that he knew her home address. Stevens is accused of meeting the same woman two more times in February and March of 2012, each time forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

Stevens in July 2012 called yet another escort and offered her $160 for sex in a Maple Shade motel. Once there, he claimed to be a police officer and demanded a discounted price, paying her $100 as he threatened her with arrest.

Stevens was released from jail March 24 after posting $200,000 bail. He was suspended without pay from his job at the New Jersey Department of Corrections' Central Reception and Assignment Facility in Trenton.

But he wasn't free for long - a DNA sample taken at the time of his arrest linked Stevens to the assault of a fifth woman May 23, 2011 at a Mansfield motel. 

The woman claimed Stevens approached her outside the motel, where she was living at the time, dressed in a blue uniform with handcuffs dangling from the back of his pants. Stevens said he was a police officer sent to talk to the woman about prostitution and drug activity at the motel.

After she let him into her room, Stevens flashed a badge and ordered her to take her clothes off. When the woman said she would rather be arrested than have sex with him, Stevens pulled her onto the bed and forced her to perform oral sex and have unprotected sex with him. He threw $15 at her before leaving the motel, prosecutors said.

The woman reported the rape to the Mansfield Police Department. DNA collected from her at a hospital matched the sample belonging to Stevens, leading to his second arrest April 25 and additional charges of sexual assault and criminal restraint.

A grand jury on July 16 handed down a 25-count indictment against Stevens, with charges including official misconduct, sexual assault, criminal restraint, criminal coercion, theft by extortion and impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Stevens took a plea agreement, according to prosecutors, pleading guilty Oct. 17 to third-degree official misconduct and forfeiting his state job. He is ineligible for parole for the first 2 years of his 5-year prison sentence and is permanently barred from being publicly employed in the state of New Jersey.

“Everyone who proudly wears a uniform and a badge is glad to see justice being carried out for these cowardly acts of intimidation,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes said in a statement

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