TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a Gloucester County woman was indicted today by a state grand jury on first-degree charges for allegedly recruiting a 16-year-old girl to engage in prostitution with her in South Jersey and soliciting clients on Backpage.com.
Barbara B. Cantz, 22, of Westville, N.J., was indicted on first-degree charges of conspiracy, human trafficking, promoting prostitution and promoting organized street crime, as well as second-degree charges of facilitating human trafficking and endangering the welfare of a child.
Cantz met the 16-year-old runaway in early 2016 and invited the girl to move in with her at a hotel in Cherry Hill. It is alleged that Cantz was working as a prostitute, and she urged the girl to meet men with her and engage in prostitution so that they could make money. Cantz allegedly had the girl place advertisements with photos of herself on Backpage.com and another website to solicit clients. Cantz allegedly told the girl to advertise the two of them together so that they could make more money. Cantz also allegedly asked the victim to provide photos of herself in her underwear, so Cantz could send the photos to prospective clients. Cantz allegedly arranged for them to see men together for sex at various locations in South Jersey, making appointments with up to four men in a single day.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Unit in the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, conducted with assistance from the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation began in April when the Cherry Hill Police obtained information that the victim allegedly was engaging in prostitution with Cantz. They notified the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, which alerted the Division of Criminal Justice.
“Cantz allegedly lured a young runaway into a life of prostitution for the despicable purpose of increasing her own profits,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Our human trafficking laws are intended to protect vulnerable victims and provide stern punishment for those like Cantz who are charged with exploiting them.”
“Our human trafficking unit will continue to partner with law enforcement throughout New Jersey to rescue victims and prosecute those who commit these crimes,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Often these crimes are hidden, so we urge members of the public to call our human trafficking hotline if they see a child or teenager in suspicious circumstances.”
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig urged anyone who suspects human trafficking to call the Division of Criminal Justice’s confidential Human Trafficking Hotline 1-855-END-NJ-HT.
Deputy Attorney General Cassandra Montalto presented the case to the state grand jury for the Human Trafficking Unit. Detectives Atem Ako, Timothy Savage and Brian Christensen investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice. Attorney General Porrino thanked the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office for its valuable assistance. Detective Jason Rowello investigated for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office. The Westville Police Department assisted with the arrest of Cantz.
The first-degree human trafficking charge carries a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Camden County, where Cantz will be ordered to appear for arraignment at a later date. Cantz currently is free on $150,000 bail.
Defense Attorney: Eric McKinley, Public Defender’s Office, Camden County