Corrections officer guilty of coercing prostitutes

Posted: October 19, 2013

TRENTON - A senior Department of Corrections officer pleaded guilty Thursday to impersonating a police officer and coercing four prostitutes into sexual encounters free or at a discount, acting state Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

Juan R. Stevens, 51, was linked to an encounter involving one woman by his DNA, which he was ordered to provide after his arrest in cases involving the other three.

State officials said it was the first time charges were filed under a DNA law Gov. Christie signed in August 2011.

Stevens, of Burlington Township, used the names "Rick or "Rich" when he telephoned adult escort services. He met the women at hotels and motels in Mansfield, Maple Shade, and Westampton between May 2011 and May 2012, authorities said.

He admitted using equipment issued him as a corrections officer, including his badge, to impersonate a law enforcement officer and coerce the women, authorities said. In one case, he coerced a woman to meet him on two occasions after their initial meeting in January 2012.

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Stevens be sentenced to five years in state prison, including two years of parole, for his guilty plea on the official-misconduct charge.

He must also forfeit his $80,396-a-year job with the Department of Corrections' Central Reception and Assignment Facility in Trenton.

Stevens' attorney, Cedric Ashley of Princeton, noted that his client was initially charged with 25 counts, including criminal coercion and criminal restraint, that will be dismissed at his Jan. 3 sentencing.

"The resolution of this case shows this case for what it is," Ashley said. "He didn't coerce anybody. Unfortunately, because of this, Mr. Stevens lost a 241/2 year career, six months short of retiring, for a lapse in judgment."

Stevens was suspended without pay in March after state police arrested him in connection with encounters involving three of the women. Under the new state law, Stevens was required to provide a DNA sample because he was arrested on suspicion of a violent crime. The previous law only required people tried and convicted of violent offenses to submit DNA to the state database.

After Stevens' arrest, a fourth woman told police that she was coerced into sex at a Mansfield hotel on May 23, 2011. Authorities took a DNA sample from her and matched it to Stevens' sample, officials said.

On April 25, authorities arrested Stevens again on the charges from the May 23 incident.

In that instance, dressed in a blue uniform, Stevens approached the woman outside the motel, where she was living. He said he was an officer and wanted to talk to her about prostitution and drug activity at the motel, authorities said.

He asked the woman to enter her room and displayed a police-style badge, and ordered her to take her clothes off, authorities said.

The woman, who said she was afraid of Stevens, engaged in oral and sexual intercourse "without a condom."

"Stevens threw $15 at her and left the motel," authorities said in a news release.

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