MCPO Joins Commissioners for Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Published on January 26, 2024
At the Morris County Board of County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, the Commissioners, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office recognized January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Observed annually since 2010, the goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking, and to educate the public on how to identify and prevent this crime. The proclamation celebrates the efforts of foreign governments, international organizations, anti-trafficking entities, law enforcement officials, survivor advocates, communities of faith, businesses, and private citizens all around the world to combat human trafficking.
Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. However, those more susceptible to becoming victims are often the most vulnerable individuals in our population, such as runaways, homeless individuals, or those looking to fulfill a basic need.
In recognition of this public awareness campaign, First Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood and Assistant Prosecutor Catherine LaQuaglia, the Human Trafficking Liaison for the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, were present during the issuance of the proclamation. AP LaQuaglia briefed the Commissioners on the MCPO’s strategy when it comes to human trafficking.
The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office is committed to promoting a victim-centered approach to human trafficking investigations. This approach seeks to support victims and encourage their active participation in investigations and prosecutions, while also recognizing a need to protect the safety and security of victims and those reporting any suspected activity. The MCPO has conducted undercover operations to recover victims of human trafficking and to prosecute those who commit such crimes, in conjunction with local law enforcement.
Members of the MCPO participates in quarterly meetings and trainings with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Human Trafficking Task Force and with other prosecutors around the state.
MCPO members provide training regularly at the police academy and have hosted educational assemblies at Morris County schools for staff, parents, and students. The MCPO also provides training to the staff at Morris County Correctional Facility, the Youth Shelter and Youth Detention Center on Human Trafficking and recently conducted a seminar with volunteer members of the Morris County Sexual Assault Center.
As a result of an investigation conducted by the Chatham Township Police Department and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office’s Sex Crimes/Child Endangerment Unit, Nafis H. Wiggins, age 25, of Newark, was arrested on December 19, 2023, and charged with two counts of first-degree Human Trafficking and related offenses. It is alleged that Wiggins allegedly provided narcotics to two victims, ages 14 and 15, in exchange for sexual favors, recruiting and luring the minors via text messages, between August 1 and September 28, 2023. The defendant is currently detained at the Morris County Correctional Facility after a detention hearing in accordance with the Criminal Justice Reform Act.
As a result of an investigation conducted by the Dover Township Police Department and the MCPO Sex Crimes/Child Endangerment Unit, Elvin Flores, 42, of Dover, was charged on September 11, 2023, with one count of first-degree Human Trafficking, one count of first-degree Conspiracy to Commit Human Trafficking, and one count of second degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child. It is alleged that Flores brought his minor daughter into the United States, and forced her to live with and to engage in sexual activity with Rogelio Hernandez, 29, of Dover, as per an agreement between the two men. Hernandez has been charged with one count of first-degree Human Trafficking, one count of second-degree Conspiracy to Commit Human Trafficking, two counts of second-degree Sexual Assault, one count of second-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and two counts of fourth-degree Criminal Sexual Contact.
Flores is currently detained at the Morris County Correctional Facility after a detention hearing in accordance with the Criminal Justice Reform Act. Hernandez is currently considered a fugitive.
The U.S. Department of State estimates more than 27 million people — adults and children — are subjected to human trafficking around the world, including in the United States.
If anyone observes suspicious activity that may be Human Trafficking, please immediately report the situation to your local police department or to the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-6200.
Assistant Prosecutor Catherine LaQuaglia presents during the Jan. 24, 2024 Board of Commissioners meeting.
(L-R) Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo, Sheriff James Gannon, Commissioners John Krickus and Deborah Smith, Capt. Joseph Fucci of the MCCF, First Assistant Prosecutor Maggie Calderwood, Assistant Prosecutor Catherine LaQuaglia, Commissioner Director Christine Myers and Commissioners Doug Cabana and Tayfun Selen.
These cases are ongoing. A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. Despite these accusations, the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.