NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A city man has been sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy involving multiple brothels that employed illegal aliens throughout New Jersey, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito has announced.
Wilmer (Charmin) Chavez Romero, 29, was previously convicted of all eight counts of an indictment charging him with one count each of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to harbor aliens; two counts of using a firearm for a violent crime; and two counts of murder in aid of racketeering. He was convicted following a trial that lasted more than two weeks before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls, who imposed the sentence Wednesday in Newark federal court.
According to court documents, Chavez Romero served as an enforcer for a prostitution enterprise that helped illegal aliens enter the country and employed them at brothels throughout Cumberland, Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. The enterprise used threats and acts of violence – including burglary, assaults, and murder – to expand its territory, thwart rival brothels, exact revenge, punish enterprise members and associates who had been disloyal, and silence people they believed were cooperating with law enforcement.
Chavez Romero acted at the direction of the leaders of the enterprise, Juan Fredy Hernandez-Zozaya, 40, and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Rojas, 37, both of New Brunswick, who oversaw brothels in New Brunswick, Trenton, Orange, Asbury Park, Lakewood, and Bridgeton.
Chavez Romero personally committed acts of violence to further the enterprise, including participating in the murders of two victims during separate robberies. On Sept. 4, 2012, Chavez Romero, armed with a firearm, entered a rival brothel house in Trenton with the intent to rob the house. During the robbery, one victim was shot in the leg and survived, while another was shot and killed.
On Jan. 23, 2013, Chavez Romero entered another rival brothel in Trenton armed with a .40 caliber gun. Chavez Romero attempted to commit a robbery when a fight broke out and a victim was shot and killed.
In addition, during recorded interviews with law enforcement in 2012 and 2014, Chavez Romero discussed his role in the murders, as well as beatings, shootings and other acts of violence that he committed to further the enterprise’s goals and shut down its competition. As part of the enterprise, Chavez Romero also conspired to conceal and harbor aliens and aided in their interstate transport for use in the prostitution enterprise.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael in Newark, as well as the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, Trenton Police Department, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, and the N.J. State Police Ballistics Lab, with the investigation leading to Wednesday’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meredith Williams and Melissa Wangenheim of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.